White House Press Staff ‘accidentally’ outs CIA chief in Afghanistan

Monday, 26 May 2014

 

 

 

English: South façade of the White House, the ...

 

The White House press service unwittingly put the real name of the CIA’s top spy in Afghanistan on the ‘pool report’ distributed among journalists accompanying the American president on a surprise trip to Kabul’s Bagram Airfield base.

 

The identity of the man dubbed ‘Chief of Station’, the usual address to a CIA local chief, was inadvertently added to a list of 15 US officials supposed to take part in a military briefing with Obama at the base, and emailed it to the White House press pool on Saturday, the Washington Post reported.

 

The unusual address was observed by Scott Wilson, the Washington Post’s White House bureau chief, who informed the White House press officials.

 

Continue reading “White House Press Staff ‘accidentally’ outs CIA chief in Afghanistan”

The Taliban is paying Afghans $5 to surrender their voter cards before tomorrow’s election

 

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (June 13, 2010) — Tribal...

Saturday’s election will bring the first democratic transfer of power in war-torn Afghanistan and an end to the rule of President Hamid Karzai.

The Taliban have launched a violent campaign to disrupt this weekend’s presidential election in Afghanistan, but in a restive eastern corner of the country they are paying villagers to surrender their voting cards. Continue reading “The Taliban is paying Afghans $5 to surrender their voter cards before tomorrow’s election”

Former warlord campaigns to fill Karzai’s shoes

Rebranding?: Afghan presidential candidate and former Islamist warlord Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf delivers a speech during an election gathering in Kabul on Thursday. | AFP-JIJI

West worries 9/11 ‘mentor’ may become new Afghan president

AP Feb 7, 2014

KABUL – He has been called a mentor to accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the man who welcomed Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan in the 1990s. He was accused of war crimes and atrocities, and even has a terrorist group named after him in the Philippines. Continue reading “Former warlord campaigns to fill Karzai’s shoes”

Hell for Women has a name: Afghanistan

 

– Afghanistan has effectively legalised domestic violence by changing a law so it will become impossible for anyone to testify against relatives, thus making Afghanistan the most idiotic country on Earth.

Afghanistan

Thursday, 06 February 2014 Continue reading “Hell for Women has a name: Afghanistan”

Russian military to train combat engineers for Afghan army

 

Russian military to train combat engineers for Afghan army

Photo: RIA Novosti

The Russian military will train combat engineers for the Afghan army to ensure safe and efficient mine sweeping in the war-torn Central Asian country, Russia’s defense minister said Wednesday.

“We are working on the creation of a training center to prepare sappers for mine sweeping in Afghanistan,” Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting with university students in Moscow. Continue reading “Russian military to train combat engineers for Afghan army”

Afghanistan’s poppy farmers plant record opium crop, UN report says

Despite 10 years of western efforts to curb production, a combination of economics and political instability means farmers in the world’s largest heroin-producing country are as enthusiastic as ever for the poppy
    • Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul
    • theguardian.com,    Wednesday 13 November 2013 00.59 EST
British in Helmand

The end of British efforts to stamp out opium-production in Helmand province has led to an increase in planting. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

Afghanistan‘s farmers planted a record opium crop this year, despite a decade of western-backed narcotics programmes aimed at weaning farmers off the drug and cracking down on producers and traffickers.

For the first time over 200,000 hectares of Afghan fields were growing poppies, according to the UN’s Afghanistan Opium Survey for 2013, covering an area equivalent to the island nation of Mauritius.

Violence and political instability means there is unlikely to be any significant drop in poppy farming in the world’s top opium producer before foreign combat troops head home next year, a senior UN official warned.

“This is the third consecutive year of increasing cultivation,” said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, the outgoing Afghanistan director for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which publishes the report. “The assumption is that the illicit economy is to gain in importance in the future.”

Opium cultivation

Credit: Guardian graphicsWith conflict spreading to once-peaceful areas of the country and a critical presidential election scheduled for early next year, poppy fields provide both cash to networks of power-brokers and insurance to farmers at the bottom of Afghanistan’s feeble economy.Portable and long-lasting, the high value per kilo of opium makes it attractive to families who fear they may need to flee, or see fields of conventional crops destroyed by fighting.

The total harvest was probably slightly lower than the previous peak five years ago, mostly because bad weather meant each plant yielded less of the sticky narcotic. But the number of fields turned over to poppy is a more accurate gauge of farmers’ enthusiasm for the crop and the government’s ability to control it than the final production figures.

An Afghan man cultivates poppy bulbs

An Afghan man cultivates poppy bulbs at a farm near the city of Kandahar. Photograph: Majid Saeedi/Getty ImagesIn a bleak assessment of efforts to curb opium farming in a country that produces the vast majority of the world’s supply, Lemahieu said the international community needed to stop thinking there was a quick fix to a complicated problem. “As long as we think we can have short-term, fast solutions to the counter-narcotics problem, we are doomed to continue to fail,” he said. “That means first knowing this will take 10-15 years.”Because the value of opium is so much higher than any other crop available to Afghan farmers, it has become the only way for many to cover the basic expense of large families. Although opium prices of around $130 per kilo are barely half their 2011 peak, they are still well above market rates after the last production glut of 2007, and may have further to fall. Many who grow the crop are aware that mullahs denounce production of the drug and the government bans it. But they say officials also grow the drug and religious leaders are always eager to claim a share of harvest income.

“We doubt that it is forbidden, because if it is, why are the mullahs taking these taxes?” said the 53-year-old farmer Abdul Khaliq, who has been growing poppy in Helmand province for over a decade to support a family of nearly two dozen. “We are a lot of people, this is the reason we grow opium. If we do other work, we can’t feed our family.”

Around half the poppy grown in Afghanistan is planted in Helmand, and the end of a UK-backed project trying to keep poppy out of the main valleys, or “food zone”, brought increase in planting there, though crop levels were far below that in areas under insurgent control, the report said.

“Opium cultivation in the food zone increased by half … [but] outside the food zone the extent of poppy cultivation was far greater,” the report said.

Eradication efforts slowed and became much more dangerous, with 143 people killed while trying to uproot crops, up by nearly half from a year before. Nearly 100 others were injured.

Northern Badakhshan province was the only place in Afghanistan where authorities managed to destroy more than half of the poppy planted; elsewhere teams made small inroads to large harvests.

One of the few bright spots was greater control of the drugs trade, with beefed-up drugs police seizing over 10% of production, up from just 3% or 4% a few years ago, Lemahieu said. But the country also needs to work out how to tackle a growing addiction problem from a product that was once used largely for export or in moderation as a medication. Now over 1 million Afghans – around 3% of the population – have an opium or heroin habit.

Case study: the poppy farmer

My name is Hedayatullah, I am 45 years old and there are 11 people in my family. I am from Marjah district and I have been growing poppy for twenty years. No one in our family uses opium, we grow it as a business.

The imams often tell us it is forbidden to grow opium, but when we get our harvest they take a 10% tax. So we think they aren’t saying these things because of religion and the holy Qur’an, other people are just telling them to say this.

We know the constitution says you can’t grow opium but with wheat or beans you can’t make good money. Also the government officials grow opium themselves, and if they don’t grow it themselves they rent out their land to farmers who grow it. If the officials don’t care about the law, there is no reason for us to respect it.

Under Taliban rule there was an order to stop growing opium, so I stopped for one year, but then the temporary government was set up and I started growing opium again.

In the government-controlled area we farm 1 jerib (half an acre) per year, but in the desert we farm another 4 to 5 jeribs. Sometimes the government does military operations, but after they leave the Taliban take back control.

Before I used to make 800,000 Pakistani rupees (£4,700) per year, but in the last two years it has gone down to 300,000 Pakistani rupees (£1,800).

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/13/afghanistan-record-opium-crop-poppies-un

Depression: ‘Now the Second biggest cause of disability’ in world

By Helen Briggs BBC News

Depression
Depression is common across the world

 

Depression is the second most common cause of disability worldwide after back pain, according to a review of research.

The disease must be treated as a global public health priority, experts report in the journal PLOS Medicine.

The study compared clinical depression with more than 200 other diseases and injuries as a cause of disability.

Globally, only a small proportion of patients have access to treatment, the World Health Organization says.

“Depression is a big problem and we definitely need to pay more attention to it than we are now”

End Quote Dr Alize Ferrari University of Queensland

Depression was ranked at number two as a global cause of disability, but its impact varied in different countries and regions. For example, rates of major depression were highest in Afghanistan and lowest in Japan. In the UK, depression was ranked at number three in terms of years lived with a disability.

Dr Alize Ferrari from the University of Queensland’s School of Population Health led the study.

“Depression is a big problem and we definitely need to pay more attention to it than we are now,” she told BBC News.

“There’s still more work to be done in terms of awareness of the disease and also in coming up with successful ways of treating it.

“The burden is different between countries, so it tends to be higher in low and middle income countries and lower in high income countries.”

Policy-makers had made an effort to bring depression to the forefront, but there was a lot more work to be done, she added.

“There’s lots of stigma we know associated with mental health,” she explained.

“What one person recognises as disabling might be different to another person and might be different across countries as well, there are lots of cultural implications and interpretations that come in place, which makes it all the more important to raise awareness of the size of the problem and also signs and how to detect it.”

The data – for the year 2010 – follows similar studies in 1990 and 2000 looking at the global burden of depression.

Commenting on the study, Dr Daniel Chisholm, a health economist at the department for mental health and substance abuse at the World Health Organization said depression was a very disabling condition.

“It’s a big public health challenge and a big problem to be reckoned with but not enough is being done.

“Around the world only a tiny proportion of people get any sort of treatment or diagnosis.”

The WHO recently launched a global mental health action plan to raise awareness among policy-makers.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24818048

 

Afghanistan: There Is No Law

 

 

November 2, 2013: The 2013 fighting season in Afghanistan has come to an end and the Taliban have failed to overwhelm the Afghan security forces, who took over security responsibility for most of the country this year. The Taliban have failed year after year to make much progress in their annual “offensives”, but they are still in business as the main chore of the Afghan is to keep local and foreign forces busy while the drug gangs go about their business. Afghan soldiers and police proved capable in defending themselves and, more importantly, going after the Taliban. Using their own intelligence, and that provided by the NATO and U.S., raids were regularly carried out. But the drug gangs paid the Taliban to take the heat and drug production and smuggling continued.

The “fighting season” begins in April or May when the snow melts in the highlands. Fighting ends in November when the snows return. The snow makes cross-country travel, and survival out in the open, much more difficult. The Afghan police were the main targets of Afghanistan attacks. These Taliban operations amounted to 1,700 attacks on police and 6,600 overall (mostly against civilians) this year. Thus this year 1,273 national and 779 local (or tribal) police were killed, along with 858 civilians. Nearly 6,000 police and civilians were wounded.

Afghanistan has over 300,000 soldiers and police for a population of 30 million. That’s about the same as the United States, which has ten times as many military and police personnel for a population that is ten times as large. The big difference is that the U.S. forces are better trained, educated and competent. They are also much less corrupt. The violence rates are also much different, with Afghanistan having a higher murder rate and many areas that are basically controlled by gangs, warlords and the Taliban (usually in conjunction with a drug gang). The Afghan forces consider themselves successful because they have been able to keep the Taliban out of the cities and large towns and put the Islamic terrorists on the defensive in rural areas where the Taliban does its recruiting and maintains base camps and terrorist training and support facilities.

Western trainers and advisors report that the Afghan security forces are more effective than their opponents (gangsters and the Taliban) but still less effective than their foreign counterparts. Then there is the problem with corruption and bad attitudes by many Afghan leaders (civilian and military) who seem more interested in stealing foreign aid than in using such assistance to improve the security forces or Afghanistan in general. This is a constant source of disappointment for foreigners (military trainers and aid workers).

With the withdrawal of most foreign troops by the end of 2014 foreign aid officials estimate that foreign civilian aid inspectors will be able to safely visit aid projects in only 21 percent of the country (compared to 47 percent now). For Afghans security is much improved, but foreigners (of all types) are always prime victims for robbers and kidnappers. The law of the jungle still prevails in much of Afghanistan, with local warlords and tribal chiefs having their own private armies and the ability to do as they please. Often these armed groups belong to drug gangs or the Taliban (which is basically a political organization allied with many drug gangs to limit the reach of national or provincial law enforcement). For most of Afghanistan there is no law in the Western sense, just local traditions and customs backed by armed locals. Afghans see the foreign aid as a gift, not an attempt to build a stronger national economy. For most Afghans there is no “national economy” just local opportunities. Thus the high incidence of theft from economic development projects paid for by foreigners.

Even though many foreign aid projects (education, medical, water and agricultural) are popular, few are expected to survive the withdrawal of foreign troops at the end of 2014. In some parts of the country (the north and many of the major cities) there is more of a “civil society” (willingness to cooperate on a wide scale for the greater good) atmosphere than in the traditionalist tribal Pushtun south. But in much of the country the ancient tribalism (every family for itself) attitude prevails, making joint efforts very difficult. A major barrier to economic growth is education as most Afghans are still illiterate and possess few marketable skills. That is slowly changing but in the Pushtun south where the Taliban and tribal traditionalism are stronger the departure of foreign troops is expected to result in many schools, especially those for girls, being closed or converted to religious schools (where few economically useful skills are taught).

Taking down the Taliban nationwide is not an option because the drug gangs employ most Taliban groups at least some of the time and the drug gangs have most of the senior government officials (or members of their families) on the payroll. This does not get the Taliban complete protection from the security forces because in most parts of the country the population is hostile to the drugs and those who deal in them. Ideally the Afghan leaders taking drug gang bribes would prefer that all the drugs produced in Afghanistan (especially the opium and heroin) be exported. Most of it is, but a growing fraction is diverted to the domestic market. For too many drug gangs this local trade is easy money and difficult to give up. But it has created over a million addicts and the many friends and kin of the addicts become very mad at the suppliers of this poison. This is something the drug gangs have to be careful with, because the opium trade has been ejected from other countries (first northern Burma then northwest Pakistan) in the past few decades. Make enough Afghans sufficiently angry and it could happen again in Afghanistan. Production will pop up somewhere else (it is already making a comeback in Burma) but the good times for the Afghan drug lords will be over and the families of the Afghan addicts (especially the ones who died from their addiction) will seek revenge for a long, long time. That’s the Afghan way. That’s why local opposition to the drug trade is more dangerous to the drug gangs than international pressure on the Afghan government.

The corruption is everywhere and even foreign aid organizations are constantly confronted by thieves, kidnappers and liars who make threats and demand bribes. A classic example of this is the government effort to establish a monopoly for private security in the country. This began two years ago when private security firms were banned. The immediate effect of the Afghan governments ban on private security firms w as to stall $6 billion worth of aid projects. The security firm ban was not directed against foreign guards, as much as it was against Afghan ones. Any armed group in Afghanistan wa s suspect, and some of the Afghan security firms used their ability to move around openly with guns as an opportunity to engage in crime (often in the pay of drug gangs or some provincial strongman). The security firms also recruited the best police and army commanders, offering higher pay for a legal job. The government did not appreciate this.

Self-destructive behavior is widely accepted in Afghanistan, which is another barrier to prosperity and economic behavior. Examples are many. One crucial one involves negotiating terms for remaining U.S. troops after all other NATO forces have left after 2014. The politicians have been playing hardball with the Americans on this, refusing to agree to continue American immunity from the corrupt Afghan justice system after 2014. The U.S. has told the Afghans that if they don’t get a Status of Forces (immunity) agreement by the end of 2014 then the U.S. will withdraw all their forces. Such “Status Of Forces” agreements are standard practice for foreign troops overseas and, in the case of Afghanistan, are necessary to protect American troops from abuse by corrupt Afghan judges and prosecutors. If the U.S. withdraws completely a lot of the foreign aid might stop coming as well as essential logistical, training and air support for Afghan security forces. The implication here is that if the Afghans prove unable to govern themselves and the country once more becomes a terrorist haven, the bombers and commandoes will come back and the Afghan leaders responsible will be primary targets. That threat carries more weight since Osama bin laden was finally taken down in 2011. So far this threat has not persuaded the Afghan leaders to compromise. They know they can do that at the last minute and in the meantime their stubbornness costs them nothing and is, by Afghan standards, entertaining. Some Afghan officials contend that this is all a misunderstanding with many Afghans confusing “immunity from prosecution” (which is not what the Status of Forces agreement calls for) with simply using a more dependable foreign justice system for crimes committed by foreign troops. More Afghans are coming to realize that all the U.S. is asking for is the same deal it has received from dozens of countries for over half a century with no problems. Getting most Afghans to understand this has been difficult and may be impossible. Afghans prefer to believe the worst case, which is how life usually plays out in Afghanistan.

The withdrawal of most (or all) NATO troops after 2014 will cripple Afghanistan’s educational system for police and soldiers. This extends from basic training to specialist training (like the bomb disposal school and the training for combat medics). Reducing the effectiveness of these schools will increase Afghan casualties and make the security forces less aggressive and effective.

The U.S. has quietly restored $1.6 billion worth of economic and military aid for Pakistan that had been blocked over the last two years. This aid had been resumed over the last few months as Pakistan allowed NATO truck traffic in and out of Afghanistan to move again. All this is an aftereffect of the 2011 American raid into Pakistan that killed Osama Bin Laden. The Pakistani military was particularly unhappy with how the raid made it clear that the military had been lying about not knowing where bin Laden was hiding and unable to detect or stop the American raid. Defending lies and incompetence is growing more difficult in Pakistan, but if you have enough guns and determination you can hang on for a long time.

The three U.S. Marine Corps special operations battalions (MSOBs) are being moved out of Afghanistan and assigned to SOCOM (Special Operations Command) commands. The 1st MSOB will be assigned to SOCOM Pacific, while the 3rd MSOB will be assigned to MSOB Africa and the 2nd MSOB will be assigned to SOCOM headquarters for use wherever the need is the greatest. Each MSOB has three or four companies each with four 15 man special operations teams. With support personnel, each battalion has 400-500 men. The Special Operations Battalions provide a combination of services roughly equal to what the U.S. Army Special Forces and Rangers do, as well as some of the functions of the Force Recon units. Many other SOCOM troops are leaving, mostly to give SOCOM operators a break from the constant overseas deployments they have endured since September 11, 2001. Some operators are going to other terrorism hotspots, but most are getting some “dwell time” with their families.

November 1, 2013: The U.S. has agreed to buy another 30 Russian Mi-17V5 helicopters next year for the Afghan Army. That makes 63 helicopters of this type that the U.S. has bought so far. The U.S. has bought over a hundred older models of the Mi-17 for the Afghans, who prefer these simpler and more robust Russian models to the more expensive (to buy, operate and maintain) Western helicopters.

October 27, 2013: In the north (Ghazni province) a roadside bomb hit a bus full of women and children headed for a wedding, killing 18 civilians. Locals found and killed (by stoning and gunfire) a Taliban member they believed responsible for the bombing.

October 24, 2013: In the Pakistani tribal territories (South Waziristan) nine civilians were wounded when at least a dozen mortar shells and rockets were fired at a village from Afghanistan. This was apparently a tribal feud that may have involved an Islamic terrorist group based in Afghanistan. There has been growing animosity and violence between Afghan and Pakistani Taliban groups. This is largely the result of Pakistani Taliban taking refuge inside Afghanistan and not getting along with the locals.

In the east (Paktika province) four Islamic terrorists died when a roadside bomb they were placing went off accidentally.

October 22, 2013: The intelligence service announced that they had dismissed 65 officers who had been found to be opium or heroin addicts. An investigation had been ordered after senior leaders noted some officers seemed to be acting odd.

October 21, 2013: In the east (Kunar province) a local Taliban leader and three followers were killed by a UAV missile strike.

October 20, 2013: In the Pakistani tribal territories (Peshawar) gunmen from Afghanistan attacked a police checkpoint killing four policemen.

October 19, 2013: Afghanistan is suffering further economic damage because Turkey and Iran are arguing over transit fees and other diplomatic disputes. Thus despite transit agreements Iran is delaying or prohibiting Turkish trucks from travelling through Iran to Afghanistan. The Turkish connection was doing much for the economy in western and northern Afghanistan.

October 18, 2013: Germany temporarily closed its embassy because of the threat of a terrorist attack. In Kabul terrorists did attempt to get a suicide car bomb into the international compound (the “Green Village”) but the attack failed and killed two Afghan civilians.

http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/afghan/articles/20131102.aspx

 

Support rallies for soldier who faces disciplinary hearing for sending classified information from his personal email which could have saved three lives

By  Ashley Collman

PUBLISHED: 23:32 EST, 26  October 2013 |  UPDATED: 23:34 EST, 26 October 2013

A well-intentioned honest mistake could cost  Major Jason Brezler his position as a Marine reservist.

Maj Brezler found himself in hot water last  summer when he responded to an email from  troops in Helmand Province,  Afghanistan who were inquiring about a local police chief named Sarwar Jan.

Jan was being given access to the base in  Delhi as part of the U.S. military’s exit strategy from the country.

Maj Jason Brezler, pictured in the middle on the right, will face a Marine hearing as early as next month for accidentally emailing classified information via his personal email accountMaj Jason Brezler, pictured in the middle on the right,  will face a Marine hearing as early as next month for accidentally emailing  classified information via his personal email account

 

Maj Brezler had prior knowledge of Jan, and  immediately replied to warn his fellow marines about the dangerous police chief  with ties to the Taliban. He also  reported that Jan was a noted child abuser and there were allegations he  sexually abused minors on U.S. bases in the past.

Immediately after sending the email, Maj  Brezler realized he had made a mistake and shouldn’t have sent the message from  his personal Yahoo email account. He  reported himself to the Marines and is now facing judgement. He could face a  Board of Inquiry hearing as early as next month where he will need to argue his  case for remaining a Marine.

But punishment for the email is causing an  uproar among politicians and high-ranking military leaders since his email was a  harbinger for a deadly attack carried out at the forward operating base in Delhi  by one of Jan’s boy assistants.

The assistant, who is believed to be one of  Jan’s sexual-abuse victims, opened fire in a base gym on August 10, 2012 and  killed three American soldiers: Staff Sergeant Scott Dickinson, Corporal Richard  Rivera and Lance Corporal George Buckley, Jr.

Warning: Shortly after sending a warning email to soldiers in Helmand Province about Sarwar Jar, one of Sanwar Jar's assistants shot and killed three soldiers on the base. Above, the body of victim Staff Sgt Scott Dickinson is brought back to the U.S. 

Warning: Shortly after sending a warning email to  soldiers in Helmand Province about Sarwar Jar, one of Sanwar Jar’s assistants  shot and killed three soldiers on the base. Above, the body of victim Staff Sgt  Scott Dickinson is brought back to the U.S.

 

Maj Brezler lives in New York and in addition  to being a Marine reservist, is a New York City fireman.

Kevin Carroll, Maj Brezler’s lawyer who is  working pro bono, said it was ‘inconceivable that a combat Marine and New York  City fireman, such as Jason Brezler, would have lied or stayed silent when  marines in Afghanistan sought his advice on an emergency force protection  issue.’

New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand and  Representative Peter King have both written letters backing their fellow New  Yorker. Rep King called it ‘unfair’ that  Maj Brezler would be punished for his ‘good-faith effort to warn his fellow  Marines.

‘The Marines and the (New York City) Fire  Department need more good men such as Maj Brezler, not less,’ Rep King  wrote.

Other military leaders have come to Maj  Brezler’s defense, describing him as a model Marine.

Bing West, the former assistant secretary of  defense for international security affairs and who has written several  non-fiction books about the military, said Major Brezler ‘has brass balls. We’d  like to believe that’s the definition of a marine, but I’ve seen Brezler in  action.’

He also described the time he saw Brezler  ‘brace a punk police chief and drag away a young teen who was being used as a  sex slave’. U.S. military in the area were able to convince the provincial  governor to depose that police chief.

Doing the right thing: Several politicians and high-ranking military officials have written to defend Maj Brezler's actions. Above, another picture of the casks of the three Marine victims from the shooting at FOB Delhi being brought back to the U.S. 

Doing the right thing: Several politicians and  high-ranking military officials have written to defend Maj Brezler’s actions.  Above, another picture of the casks of the three Marine victims from the  shooting at FOB Delhi being brought back to the U.S.

 

Maj Gen Larry Nicholson, the commanding  general of the 1st Marine Division and Brig Gen Richard Simcock have also spoke  up for Maj Brezler.

‘Jason is a selfless, fearless and dedicated  Marine officer. He accomplished much, for so many, with little regard for  himself. I urge board members to take into consideration these aspects of his  character and prior service in deliberations,’ Maj Gen Nicholson wrote.

Brig Gen Simcock called Maj Brezler a  ‘principled man of integrity who is not swayed by peer pressure or personal  gain’.

The Marine Corps Times also published an  editorial in favor of leniency for Maj Brezler.

‘Brezler’s treatment sends the message that  in the Marine Corps there’s no room for honest mistakes. That’s a dangerous  precedent to set in any line of work, but most assuredly in the military where  even four-star generals will acknowledged that an understanding commander showed  them some leniency along the way.’

A spokesman for the Marine Corps Forces  Reserve declined to comment on Maj Brezler’s impending hearing.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2477762/Support-rallies-soldier-faces-disciplinary-hearing-sending-classified-information-personal-email-saved-lives.html#ixzz2itYe6PnV Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

U.S. Army says only two brigades fully trained due to budget cuts ( That is only 7,000 to 10,000 soldiers )

Source: Reuters – Mon, 21 Oct 2013 10:44 PM

Author: Reuters

* Spending reductions this year fell heavily on training dollars

* Top Army leaders appeal for greater budget certainty

By David Alexander

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Two years of budget cuts and fiscal uncertainty have forced the U.S. Army to greatly curtail spending on training, leaving it with only two combat brigades fully prepared to go to war, the Army’s top officer said on Monday.

“Right now, we have in the Army two brigades that are trained. That’s it. Two,” General Ray Odierno told a news conference at the annual conference of the Association of the U.S. Army.

Odierno’s comments came as he and Army Secretary John McHugh discussed the impact of the recent U.S. government shutdown as well as across-the-board budget cuts that forced the military to slash spending in March, nearly halfway through its fiscal year.

McHugh and Odierno both appealed to Congress to find a way to give the military more financial predictability so it can plan effectively. McHugh said that with the way the military is currently funded, budgets that are approved today are based on planning that occurred three years earlier.

“You can’t run the most important military on the face of the Earth locked into three-year-old budgets,” McHugh said.

The Army was hit particularly hard by the cuts in March, known as sequestration, because of higher-than-projected Afghanistan war costs and the need to make up those funds from its operations accounts, which include money for training.

“We had to stop training, basically, in the last six months of the year,” Odierno said.

The ongoing uncertainty with the defense budget could make the situation worse in the fiscal year that began in October. The U.S. government began the year with a shutdown that lasted nearly three weeks and put many federal workers on unpaid leave.

The government resumed operations last week under a deal to fund operations at last year’s spending levels and priorities.

The Army chief said he hoped to be able to devote enough money to training this fiscal year to ensure that seven combat brigades are fully ready by June to respond to a conflict. He said the current lack of training was his biggest concern.

A combat brigade team has about 3,500 to 5,000 soldiers.

“The worst-case scenario is you ask me to deploy thousands of soldiers somewhere and we have not properly trained them to go because we simply don’t have the dollars and money because of the way sequestration is laid out,” Odierno said.

Odierno said that while troops going to Afghanistan had been trained, they were “trained now to do training and advising only. They’re not trained to do combat operations … because that’s not their mission in Afghanistan any more.”

The Army grew to about 570,000 uniformed personnel over the past decade. But with the war in Iraq over and the one in Afghanistan winding down, officials plan to reduce the size of the force to 490,000. The number of brigade combat teams is due to fall from a total of 45 currently down to 33.

With the Pentagon increasingly likely to face cuts of nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, the Army could be forced to cut further. A management review this summer conducted by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel indicated the Army might have to shrink by up to 70,000 more soldiers, to 420,000.

McHugh said that if the across-the-board cuts continue in force, essentially all of the Army’s programs will be affected.

Odierno also said the Army needs a replacement for its armored fighting vehicles, its workhorse Humvee vehicles and its helicopters. “The bottom line is we can’t afford all of that. And so we’re going to have make some tough decisions,” he said.   (Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Will Dunham)

Afghan special forces commander defects with guns to insurgents

Source: Reuters – Sun, 20 Oct 2013 03:45 PM

Author: Reuters

By Mohammad Anwar

KUNAR, Afghanistan, Oct 20 (Reuters) – An Afghan army special forces commander has defected to an insurgent group allied with the Taliban in a Humvee truck packed with his team’s guns and high-tech equipment, officials in the eastern Kunar province said on Sunday.

Monsif Khan, who raided the supplies of his 20-man team in Kunar’s capital Asadabad over the Eid al-Adha religious holiday, is the first special forces commander to switch sides, joining the Hezb-e-Islami organisation.

“He sent some of his comrades on leave and paid others to go out sightseeing, and then escaped with up to 30 guns, night-vision goggles, binoculars and a Humvee,” said Shuja ul-Mulkh Jalala, the governor of Kunar.

Zubair Sediqi, a spokesman for Hezb-e-Islami, confirmed that Khan had joined the group, saying he had brought 15 guns and high-tech equipment.

The NATO-led coalition is grappling with a rise in “insider attacks” by Afghan soldiers who turn on their allies, undermining trust and efficiency.

It has reported four lethal incidents over the past month taking the total number this year to 10, according to a Reuters tally.

Kunar, like other provinces along the border with Pakistan, is among the more insecure and volatile parts of Afghanistan.

Local security forces have started a manhunt for the commander and tribal elders have promised to help.

“We are trying our best to use elders’ influence in that area to bring back all equipment,” Jalala said.

A record number of insider attacks – accounting for about one in every five coalition combat deaths – last year prompted the coalition to briefly suspend all joint activities and take steps to curb interaction between foreign and Afghan troops.

That has cut down the number of incidents, but some soldiers say the measures have further eroded the trust painstakingly nurtured between the allies over more than 12 years of war.

All entrants to the Afghan National Security Force have to pass an eight step vetting process, which includes providing identification cards, letters of recommendation by village or district elders and undergoing tests.   (Writing by Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Jessica Donati and Anthony Barker)

http://www.trust.org/item/20131020153446-k177l/?source=hpbreaking

 

Afghan special forces commander joins Taliban, takes a tank with him

Afghan special forces commander joins Taliban, takes a tank with him

Photo: EPA

An Afghan army commander with the special force unit has joined the Taliban, taking a tank and some weapons and ammunition with him, an army official said Sunday.

“The commander of Afghan special forces of the national army disappeared three days ago in Shaigal district and we found out today that he has joined the Taliban,” the official told dpa on condition of anonymity.

“He has taken a tank along with some weapons and ammunition,” the official said, without identifying the commander.

A spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry said a special forces vehicle was set on fire by the Taliban and a lieutenant officer was missing.

Shaigal is a restive district in the eastern province of Kunar on the border with Pakistan’s tribal region.

Taliban sources were not immediately available to comment.

Last month, a former senator joined the insurgents in northern Afghanistan.

Voice of Russia, dpa

http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_10_20/Afghan-special-forces-commander-joins-Taliban-takes-a-tank-with-him-5575/

 

Kerry fails to secure deal on US ‘troop immunity’ in Afghanistan

Published time: October 13, 2013 07:51                                                                            

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) gives a press conference on October 12, 2013 with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul.(AFP Photo / Massoud Hossaini) 

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) gives a press conference on October 12, 2013 with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul.(AFP Photo / Massoud Hossaini)

Talks between the US and Afghanistan to allow 10,000 American troops to remain in the country after NATO forces’ planned withdrawal in 2014 stalled Saturday on the issue of immunity for US personnel.

A long day of negotiations between US Secretary of State John  Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai yielded little result for  the long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement, which would allow  between 5,000 and 10,000 US troops to stay behind, to continue  training Afghan security forces and to fight Taliban insurgents.

It is beyond the scope of the Afghan president and his government  to decide whether to grant US military personnel immunity, Karzai  told Kerry, adding that this “issue of jurisdiction” would  be referred to the country’s loya Jirga, an assembly of elders,  leaders and other influential people.

“We need to say that if the issue of jurisdiction cannot be  resolved, then unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security  agreement,” Kerry told reporters at a Kabul news conference,  stressing, however, that an agreement was otherwise essentially  in place.

Kerry said only a partial deal was reached on just how many US  troops will stay in the country after the NATO pull-out next  year. Washington wants to take the lead in running  counter-terrorism missions after 2014, as well as to keep leasing  bases around the country.

But such unilateral actions as the capture in recent days of  Taliban commander Latif Mehsud by US forces have angered Karzai.

“This is an issue that we have raised in earnest with the  United States in the past few days, as we have all previous  occasions of such arrests in which the Afghan laws were  disregarded,” Reuters reported Karzai as saying.

Karzai wants a guarantee that the US will protect Afghanistan  from a potential Al-Qaeda invasion from neighboring Pakistan. He  said that during the talks an agreement had been signed to ensure  the welfare of the Afghan people.

“There will be no arbitrary actions and operations by the US,  and a written document has been given to guarantee the protection  of lives and properties of our people,” Karzai said.

‘Geopolitical games’

Lawrence Freeman, editor of Executive Intelligence Review, told  RT that the US’s “conflicted policy” in Afghanistan was drawing  out negotiations.

Referring to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 as a   “farce,” Freeman said that the US had no clear policy for  the future of the region. He said that the US needed to introduce  a serious development program rather than continuing with what he  described as a policy governed by “geopolitical games.”

“There are some people who think we should have a military  base in Afghanistan to have some kind of containment against  Russian ambitions,” Freeman told RT, concluding that the  West’s intervention as a whole was a “failure” when it  comes to “forward-thinking, visionary policy.”

http://rt.com/news/us-afghanistan-troop-immunity-123/

 

Body Armor Details May Be Kept Close to the Chest

 

By RYAN ABBOTT

 

WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge won’t force the Pentagon to release autopsy information of U.S. soldiers killed in action to a former Marine doing research on the effectiveness of body armor.

Roger Charles has been involved in a legal battle with the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and the U.S. Department of Defense over such records for more than four years, spanning the courtrooms of multiple federal judges.

According to U.S. District Judge Ketanji Jackson, Charles is a journalist and former Marine Corps officer researching the effectiveness of the body armor that the Pentagon issues to military personnel in combat zones.

He’s been trying to get the government to release autopsy and medical records for soldiers killed in combat, but the agencies have successfully withheld documents under FOIA exemptions.

“Consequently, by 2013, only one narrow issue remained in the case: whether defendants, who had invoked FOIA Exemption 5 to withhold redacted ‘preliminary’ autopsy reports in their entirety, have adequately established that the factual information that such records contain is not reasonably segregable from the exempted material,” Jackson writes.

The judge ruled that “defendants have sufficiently demonstrated that the factual material contained in the preliminary autopsy reports is not reasonably segregable,” granting the government’s motion for summary judgment.

According to the ruling, Charles specifically wants documents that “analyze fatal wounds from bullets that were inflicted on military service members wearing body armor in Iraq and Afghanistan between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2007, and analyze the relationship between personal body armor and lethal torso injuries sustained by such service members.”

But federal judges, for the most part, refuse to order the release of the requested information, ruling that autopsy reports are protected by inter-agency and intra-agency memorandum and medical records exemptions to federal law.

Earlier this year, the judge ruled that the Pentagon failed to properly invoke Exemption 6 – protecting the government from releasing medical records – when refusing to release 42 preliminary autopsy reports responsive to Charles’ modified request, but the matter is under appeal.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/10/07/61832.htm

 

University for all was a complete nonsense

 

WHEN historians come to ponder quite what a shambles the last Labour government made of absolutely everything they will dwell on the headline stuff: Iraq, Afghanistan, destroying the pension system and so on. But there’s a less high-profile mess-up that is continuing to cause terrible problems: the insane push to have half the country’s teenagers go to university.

 

Published: Thu, October 3, 2013            

 

Graduates-are-leaving-university-with-debts-to-find-there-aren-t-enough-jobs-to-go-round-GETTY-        

Graduates are leaving university with debts to find there aren’t enough jobs to go round [GETTY]   

No matter that we are crying out for decent plumbers, electricians and so on, the thinking went that if you didn’t go to uni you had somehow missed out. Cue the debasement of degrees and a generation with meaningless qualifications and thousands of pounds worth of debt.

Quite what a mess this has turned into was illustrated this week by Liza Fitzpatrick, from Hull, who was told to take her degree off her CV by a job centre because it was putting potential employers off. Liza is understandably furious yet the people she should really be angry with are not the job centre staff trying to help her but the people who told her to get a degree in the first place.

She also, absolutely admirably, has said that she would take any job in order to stop signing on but clearly her degree – in social and community care, which doesn’t sound very academic – has become a hindrance rather than a help. There is nothing wrong with following a vocation rather than studying classics at Oxbridge and it is time we recognised this rather than watch another generation throw thousands down the drain for something that is simply not worthwhile. We are encouraging high hopes that cannot be filled and false expectations about what a degree will endow.

An awful lot of these degrees are not worth the name to begin with, while some of the country’s most successful people – Sir Richard Branson, Stuart Rose, Jamie Oliver – didn’t go to uni and it didn’t hurt them. Labour MP for Hull East, Karl Turner, has said that the bigger issue is a “lack of suitable graduate jobs in the City”. Oh no it isn’t. The whole thing is just a giant con.

http://www.express.co.uk/comment/columnists/virginia-blackburn/433966/University-for-all-was-a-complete-nonsense

 

Special report: The punishment was death by stoning. The crime? Having a mobile phone

This barbaric form of execution is on the rise, and campaigners are calling on the UN to act

Emma Batha

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Two months ago, a young mother of two was stoned to death by her relatives on the order of a tribal court in Pakistan. Her crime: possession of a mobile phone.

Arifa Bibi’s uncle, cousins and others hurled stones and bricks at her until she died, according to media reports. She was buried in a desert far from her village. It’s unlikely anyone was arrested. Her case is not unique. Stoning is legal or practised in at least 15 countries or regions. And campaigners fear this barbaric form of execution may be on the rise, particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Women’s rights activists have launched an international campaign for a ban on stoning, which is mostly inflicted on women accused of adultery. They are using Twitter and other social media to put pressure on the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to denounce the practice.

“Stoning is a cruel and hideous punishment. It is a form of torturing someone to death,” said Naureen Shameem of the international rights group Women Living Under Muslim Laws. “It is one of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated against women in order to control and punish their sexuality and basic freedoms.”

She said activists will also push the UN to adopt a resolution on stoning similar to the one passed last year on eradicating female genital mutilation – another form of violence against women often justified on religious and cultural grounds.

Stoning is not legal in most Muslim countries and there is no mention of it in the Koran. But supporters argue that it is legitimised by the Hadith – the acts and sayings of the Prophet Mohamed. Stoning is set out as a specific punishment for adultery under several interpretations of sharia or Islamic law. In some instances, even a woman saying she has been raped can be considered an admission to the crime of zina (sex outside marriage).

In one case cited by Shameem, a 13-year-old Somali girl, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, was buried up to her neck and stoned by 50 men in front of 1,000 people at a stadium in Kismayu in 2008. Her father told Amnesty International she had been raped by three men but was accused of adultery when she tried to report the rape to the al-Shabaab militia in control of the city.

Extrajudicial terror

Iran has the world’s highest rate of execution by stoning. No one knows how many people have been stoned but at least 11 people are in prison under sentence of stoning, according to an Iranian human rights lawyer, Shadi Sadr.

Sadr, who has represented five people sentenced to stoning, said Iran carried out stonings in secret in prisons, in the desert or very early in the morning in cemeteries. “Pressure from outside Iran always helps. The Islamic Republic pretends that they don’t care about their reputation, but they do care a lot,” added Sadr, who lives in exile in Britain.

In 2010, the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery, caused international outcry. The authorities have suspended her sentence but she remains in prison. Officials withdrew stoning from a new draft penal code last year, but have since reinserted it.

Stoning is also a legal punishment for adultery in Mauritania, a third of Nigeria’s 36 states, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

In some countries, such as Mauritania and Qatar, stoning has never been used although it remains legal. However, in other countries, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, stoning is not legal but tribal leaders, militants and others carry it out extrajudicially. “In Afghanistan, warlords are manipulating religion to terrorise the population for their own political ends. Stoning is one way of doing that,” said Shameem, a human rights lawyer who is co-ordinating the Stop Stoning Women campaign.

Origins

Stoning has been used as a form of community justice throughout history in various religious and cultural traditions, many pre-dating Islam. Unlike beheading, which is performed by a single executioner, stoning is carried out by a group.

The practice has been documented among the Ancient Greeks to punish people judged to be prostitutes, adulterers or murderers. It is also mentioned in the Jewish Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and the Talmud. Today, it is predominantly associated with Muslim culture. However, clerics are deeply divided. Supporters of stoning say the Hadith depicts the Prophet as occasionally ordering stoning in cases of extramarital sex.

But some scholars say these acts and sayings – recorded several hundred years after the Prophet’s death – have been misinterpreted. Others argue that the Prophet was simply following prevailing customs and Jewish law. Modern laws sanctioning stoning as a punishment for adultery emerged with the revival of political Islam in the late 20th and early 21st century.

Discrimination

Campaigners say women are more likely to be convicted of adultery than men because discriminatory laws and customs penalise women more for extramarital sex.

If a man is unhappy with his wife he can – depending on the country – divorce, take other wives or marry another woman temporarily. A woman has few options. She can divorce only in certain circumstances and risks losing custody of her children. Men accused of adultery are also more likely to have the means to hire lawyers, and their greater physical freedom makes it easier for them to flee in situations where they risk extrajudicial stoning.

Activists say trials are often unfair. Convictions are frequently based on confessions made under duress. As adultery is difficult to prove, judges in Iran can also convict on the basis of gut feeling rather than evidence.

Even the manner of stoning is loaded against women. People sentenced to stoning in Iran are partially buried. If they can escape they are spared. But women are customarily buried up to their chests while men are only buried up to their waists.

Stoning contravenes a host of UN treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that no one should be subjected to torture, or cruel or inhuman punishment. The treaty, which Iran and Pakistan have signed, allows countries to execute people only for “the most serious crimes”.

Many prominent Muslim clerics have spoken in support of a ban on stoning, deeming it un-Islamic and antithetical to the Koran’s emphasis on repentance and compassion. Shameem said stoning mostly happened in conflict or post-conflict areas where politicians, warlords and militants exploit people’s religious beliefs as they jockey for power. Mali saw its first case last year after Islamist militants took control of the north of the country. It is not clear why, in Bibi’s case, the tribal court should have justified stoning as a punishment for owning a mobile phone. Shameem said stoning and the threat of stoning was being used “to control women, constrain their freedoms, and police their sexuality”.

The threat of stoning has even happened in Tunisia, a relatively liberal country with no history of stoning. This year, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Tunisia called for a teenage activist to be stoned to death for posting nude protest images of herself online.

Campaigners plan to present an online petition to Mr Ban and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/special-report-the-punishment-was-death-by-stoning-the-crime-having-a-mobile-phone-8846585.html#

Pakistan to free Taliban chief who may hold key to Afghan talks

Kabul hopes former Taliban second-in-command Abdul Ghani Baradar could broker peace government peace deal with rebels

  • Jon Boone in Islamabad
  • theguardian.com,              Tuesday 10 September 2013 10.53 EDT
Sartaj Aziz

Foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan had agreed to free Baradar after an improvement in Afghan relations. Photograph: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

A senior Taliban commander who the Afghan government believes could be key to brokering a political settlement in Afghanistan will be released later this month, Pakistan‘s most senior foreign affairs official has announced.

Islamabad has long-resisted demands by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, to free Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s former second-in-command, who it is hoped could initiate a peace process between Kabul and hardline rebels who once ruled the country.

Sartaj Aziz, the prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser, said Pakistan had finally agreed to hand him over after an apparent improvement in the tempestuous relationship between the two countries.

“In principle, we have agreed to release him. The timing is being discussed. It should be very soon … I think within this month,” Sartaj Aziz, the foreign affairs adviser to the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Baradar was once second only to Taliban chief Mullah Omar. He has long been thought to represent a group of pragmatists within the movement who are keen to bring an increasingly bloody insurgency to a negotiated end.

A fellow member of Karzai’s Popolzai tribe, Afghan officials say he had been in contact with the Kabul government at the time of his arrest near Karachi in 2010.

His capture was hailed initially by the international community as a rare example of Pakistan pursuing Afghan insurgent leaders. Pakistan has long been accused of covertly supporting the Taliban.

But Afghan and foreign governments later concluded that Baradar was arrested because he had been holding talks with the Karzai government without the blessing of Pakistan’s military intelligence service, which is accused of keeping the insurgents on a tight leash.

The announcement marks what appears to be a dramatic improvement in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which one western diplomat has described as a “rollercoaster” of highs and lows.

In February the two sides convened at Chequers for a trilateral summit hosted by the British prime minister, David Cameron. However, the relationship soured immediately after the conference and has been on the rocks for months.

A new government in Islamabad under Nawaz Sharif appears to have improved relations, with the prime minister hosting Karzai and most of his cabinet for two days of talks in Islamabad in August.

Last week Pakistan announced it was freeing seven Afghan Taliban prisoners. Unlike previous releases, where large numbers of unnamed fighters of questionable importance were let loose, Islamabad identified all of the men.

Nonetheless the Afghan government remains deeply suspicious of Pakistan, with one official in Kabul claiming Pakistan had been guilty of delaying tactics.

“We have seen a lot of good promises on countless occasions, but very little action,” the official said.

He said Kabul wanted all Afghan prisoners to be released, ideally in Afghanistan or a third Muslim country, so they can return to their families and civilian life and “play a supportive role in the peace process”.

But Aziz said Baradar would be released inside Pakistan.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/10/pakistan-taliban-chief-afghan-talks

U.S. Army sergeant receives Medal of Honor at White House ceremony

EEV: Deserves acknowledgement

 

 

Source: Reuters – Mon, 26 Aug 2013 08:42 PM

Author: Reuters

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON, Aug 26 (Reuters) – President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor on Monday to Army Staff Sergeant Ty Carter, who risked his life to save a wounded soldier under enemy fire during a battle in Afghanistan.

As Carter’s family and members of his unit looked on, Obama placed the medal around the soldier’s neck at a White House ceremony. It is the highest U.S. military honor.

Carter, 33, is the fifth living service member to receive the Medal of Honor for gallantry in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Carter, who also has been awarded the Purple Heart, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is an advocate of treatment for others with the ailment, Obama said.

The president took the opportunity to raise the issue of  PTSD in the military and urged soldiers not to be ashamed of it.

“It is absolutely critical for us to work with brave young men like Ty to put an end to any stigma that keeps more folks from seeking help,” Obama said with Carter at his side.

Carter was the second U.S. soldier to receive the award for bravery for actions on Oct. 3, 2009, when more than 300 Taliban insurgents tried to overrun 53 soldiers at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan’s isolated Nuristan province.

The outpost came under “a blizzard of bullets and steel, into which Ty ran not once, or twice, or even a few times, but perhaps 10 times,” Obama said.

“In doing so, he displayed the essence of true heroism – not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but to serve others at whatever cost.”

Carter, a cavalry scout with the 4th Infantry Division,     resupplied ammunition to fighting positions. He fired on advancing Taliban from a Humvee, killing attackers and helping to turn back the assault.

He left the vehicle to rescue a badly wounded comrade, applying a tourniquet and first aid under fire before carrying him back to the Humvee and then to an aid station. That soldier later died of his injuries.

EXPOSED TO GUNFIRE

Carter again exposed himself to gunfire to cut down a burning tree that was threatening the aid station, Obama said.

Eight U.S. soldiers were killed and more than 25 were wounded in the battle at Keating outpost. Obama introduced relatives of those who died at the base, drawing a standing ovation from onlookers, and many family members wiped away tears.

After the ceremony, Carter said he was eager to represent those who had suffered as a result of the war.

“Only those closest to me can see the scars that come from seeing good men take their last breath,” he told reporters.

Carter said during the battle he had lost some hearing in his left ear, but he said he would hear the cries of his wounded comrade forever.

Thanks to support from his superiors, friends and his family, Carter said: “I will heal.”

“I promise the mothers, the fathers, and spouses of my fallen brothers that I will strive to live up to the responsibility this medal carries,” he said.

“I give these men and their families all my respect, my humility and honor.”

The battle was the first since the Vietnam War in which two living service members earned the Medal of Honor. Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha received his medal in February.

Carter, who grew up in Spokane, Washington, enlisted in January 2008 and completed a second Afghanistan deployment in October. He is assigned to the 7th Infantry Division, serving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Carter is married with three children.

The last battle for which two living service members received the Medal of Honor was the 1967 Battle of Ap Bac in Vietnam, a spokeswoman for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society said.   (Reporting by Ian Simpson and Jeff Mason; editing by Scott Malone and Matthew Lewis)

http://www.trust.org/item/20130826203618-5iob0/?source=hpbreaking

 

General was called ‘Poppa Panda Sexy’ pants by junior officer he was having an affair with, court hears as he faces jail for sex assault

  • Affair lasted for three years between the  general and a Captain who was 17-years younger
  • Relationship occurred across continents  and war zones as the pair encountered one another
  • Captain flew into a jealous rage and  began emailing other officers Sinclair was seeing before revealing all to Army’s  top brass
  • Sinclair also is charged with having  inappropriate relations with three other female junior officers
  • 100 witnesses have been spoken to during  investigation
  • Sinclair to be judged by five male  generals in trial at the end of September

By  Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 19:30 EST, 17  August 2013 |  UPDATED: 19:32 EST, 17 August 2013

A married army general could face jail over  charges that he forcibly sexually assaulted a female captain

All the sordid details are coming out during  a military trail in Fort Bragg, North Carolina where the army is  court-martialling Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, one of its generals, for  just the third time in fifty years.

On trial: Brigadeer General Jeffrey A. Sinclair faces court martial on charges that include forcible sodomy and adultery 

On trial: Brigadeer General Jeffrey A. Sinclair faces  court martial on charges that include forcible sodomy and adultery

 

It was a volatile love affair that lasted for  three years during which time the captain called her boss ‘Poppa Panda Sexy  Pants.’

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, an  Army  Ranger and paratrooper is accused of forcible sodomy, adultery and  other  charges that could land him in prison.

Prosecutors say he abused his authority by  sleeping with a subordinate officer  which is a taboo in the armed forces and a  violation of military law.

The charges also suggest that the  relationship became violent when he attempted to force the Captain to perform  oral sex.

There are also some additional charges that  allude Sinclair had inappropriate communications with three other female  officers.

Sinclair has pleaded not guilty to all  charges.

 

Rare court-martial: The general will be tried at the end of September of sex assault charges 

Rare court-martial: The general will be tried at the end  of September of sex assault charges

 

On patrol before being on trial: Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair served as a special assistant to the Commanding General, XVIII Airborne Corps 

On patrol before being on trial: Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A.  Sinclair served as a special assistant to the Commanding General, XVIII Airborne  Corps

 

Well travelled: Sinclair has been deployed to combat in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan but could now face jail time after conducting a sordid affair with a Captain 17 years his junior 

Well traveled: Sinclair has been deployed to combat in  Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan but could now face jail time after conducting  a sordid affair with a Captain 17 years his junior

 

The case is being seen as a test of how well  the U.S. military handles allegations of sexual assault.

President Obama recently demanding a  crackdown after a host of scandals and admissions by military  leaders.

Sinclair’s trial begins at the end of  September but before then, the army is selecting a jury of five major generals,  all men, who will decide his fate.

40 generals have so far been summoned to the  military base to see if they are suitable to be included on the jury.

Almost all of the generals that were  questioned said they believed  sexual assault was a serious problem in the  ranks.

Although Sinclair has pleaded not guilty, his  attorneys have acknowledged that he carried on an affair with a subordinate  officer 17 years his junior.

Serious charges: The Army has charged Sinclair with forcible sodomy because of the oral sex allegations. More than 100 witnesses have been involved in the investigation 

Serious charges: The Army has charged Sinclair with  forcible sodomy because of the oral sex allegations. More than 100 witnesses  have been involved in the investigation

 

Reputation: The Army is trying to shelve its reputation of being awash with cases of sexual assault. 40 generals have been questioned so far to see if they could sit on the jury for Sinclair's upcoming trial 

Reputation: The Army is trying to shelve its reputation  of being awash with cases of sexual assault. 40 generals have been questioned so  far to see if they could sit on the jury for Sinclair’s upcoming trial

 

During a pretrial hearing last year, the  woman testified that the pair had sex in the general’s quarters in Iraq, in her  car in a German parking lot, in an office in Afghanistan and even on a hotel  balcony in Arizona.

The affair may well have remained a secret  however the  general and the captain  ended up bombarding one another  with explicit and angry text messages.

The Washington Post has revealed how one read: ‘You are my heart and world you beautiful magnificent  man,’ whilst the captain texted the general, ‘I need you and I mean really  deeply profusely need you.’

There was also a darker side to the affair  where the captain threatened to kill herself or expose Sinclair to his  superiors.

The affair exploded out into the open when in  Kandahar, Afghanistan, in March 2012, the captain was snooping through  Sinclair’s e-mail in his office and discovered loving messages to his wife, as  well as love notes to another female Army officer.

The captain has admitted she flew into a  jealous rage first firing off an e-mail to the other female officer, saying, ‘I  hope you don’t think you’re the only girl that he’s sleeping with.’

Witnesses: More than a 100 people have been interviewed in connection to Sinclair's affair, many of whom had turned a blind eye whilst the relationship was developing 

Witnesses: More than a 100 people have been interviewed  in connection to Sinclair’s affair, many of whom had turned a blind eye whilst  the relationship was developing

 

Uniquely understanding: Rebecca Sinclair, wife of General Jeff Sinclair said last year that she understood why her husband had an affair and agreed that the the strains of war had lead to infidelity 

Uniquely understanding: Rebecca Sinclair, wife of  General Jeff Sinclair said last year that she understood why her husband had an  affair and agreed that the the strains of war had lead to infidelity

 

Then she entered the office of Maj. Gen.  James L. Huggins, then the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and leader of  all U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan and spent two hours confessing to the  affair.

Phonecalls and emails followed amongst the  army’s top brass and a full investigation was launched that spoke to more than  100 witnesses.

The became even more serious when the captain  accused Sinclair of sexual assault by forcing her to perform oral sex against  her will on two occasions in Afghanistan.

The Army charged Sinclair with forcible  sodomy because of the oral sex allegations.

The captain testified that the assaults  occurred between December 2011 and February 2012 but said she cannot recall the  exact dates.

Defense attorneys have accused her of making  up the assault allegations to save her Army career.

They said she first told one confidant that  the relationship was entirely consensual but gave investigators a different  version after she realized that she, too, could be kicked out of the Army for  adultery.

Sinclair also is charged with having  inappropriate relations with three other female junior officers.

In November, Sinclair’s wife, Rebecca,  stunned many in the Army when she wrote an op-ed column in The Washington Post to  declare that she was sticking by her husband and that she blamed his infidelity  on ‘the stress of war.’

Mrs Sinclair said her husband may be a  cheater but not a violent abuser. ‘I don’t excuse my husband’s bad behavior or  bad judgment,’ she said. ‘I never said it’s okay. I said I understand how it  could happen.’

Although she has not attended most of the  court proceedings, she said she’s still living with the general. ‘We’re doing  the best we can,’ she said. ‘It’s draining.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2396365/General-called-Poppa-Panda-Sexy-pants-junior-officer-having-affair-court-hears-faces-jail-sex-assault.html#ixzz2cLvVJNE3 Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

“Purge the Generals: What it will take to fix the army”

The US military is preparing for the wrong future

When it comes to military reform, China appears to be doing it a lot better than the United States

 

theguardian.com,   Thursday 8 August 2013 10.30 EDT

 

US Army Camouflage uniforms

US army 1LT Matthew Hernandez looks down the Korengal Valley from a mountaintop outpost 24 October 2008 in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

In the years after World War I, British military strategist Captain B H Liddell Hart advocated a new fighting concept that solved the problem of the static, set-piece nature of that conflict that resulted in the pointlessly slaughter of millions. He advocated for a force of coordinated armored, infantry, and air power fighting in mobile formations, operating under the “indirect method”.

Unfortunately, key leaders in London and Paris rejected his theories because they had “won” the Great War and didn’t feel the need to change. Less than two decades later, a combined British and French field army would be swept off the continent and into the English Channel in a lightning war by a German army that had listened to and incorporated some of Captain Liddell Hart’s key concepts. Unless significant changes are made, the modern-day US army could be half-way to suffering a similar fate.

In an article published today by the Armed Forces Journal in Washington DC, I argue that the US army’s generals, as a group, have lost the ability to effectively function at the high level required of those upon whom we place the responsibility for safeguarding our nation. Titled “Purge the Generals: What it will take to fix the army”, the article details how our senior military leaders have amassed an unprecedented record of failure in major organizational, acquisition and strategic efforts over the past 20 years.

The worst part is that senior leaders are likely to repeat the mistakes of the past by readying the US army for the wrong future; one in which the US could suffer an otherwise avoidable military defeat.

The global strategic situation has undergone considerable change in the past five years. Beginning in late 2007, the US economy suffered its most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression; recovery has been slow in coming and tepid since its arrival. With the conclusion of the eight year war in Iraq and the sun setting on the 12 year bleed in Afghanistan, the US is being forced to reduce both domestic and defense budgets. Whether anyone wants to scale back the armed forces or not, reductions are coming. The question, then, is how those cuts are to be made.

According to the 8 July edition of the Army Times, senior leaders have announced they will reduce the US army from the current level of approximately 535,000 down to 490,000. The unequivocal result: a smaller and less capable army. Many military leaders warn that these cuts will have a hollowing effect “putting our national security at risk“, (pdf) as General Odierno told a Congressional panel in February 2013, and imply there are no other alternatives.

That is not correct.

In 1997, then-lieutenant colonel Douglas A Macgregor published Breaking the Phalanx: a New Design for Landpower in the 21st Century describing a military transformation that would result in a smaller, less expensive force which would produce greater combat capability than the larger formations it would replace. Unfortunately, US officials rejected those new ideas, opting instead for incremental changes, which left the field army little changed from the version that won Desert Storm in 1991. One nation, however, did not reject Macgregor’s ideas.

In 1999 two colonels from the Chinese people’s liberation army (PLA) published a strategic analysis called Unrestricted Warfare. In this essay, they discussed the changing military environment and ways China could modernize its force for future war. Regarding force design and operating methods, they wrote: “In his book, ‘Break the [Phalanx] (sic),’ [Macgregor] advocated simultaneously abandoning the systems of divisions and brigades and replacing them with … battle groups of about 5,000 men each… [The book recommends the adoption of] building-block methods according to wartime needs and put into practice mission-style group organization.”

These views apparently heavily influenced PLA modernization theories, as one year later Breaking the Phalanx was translated into Chinese. A decade after that, the US army’s Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) reported the PLA had incorporated many of Macgregor’s concepts. In the SSI’s 2011 study Chinese Lessons from Other People’s Wars (pdf), the author noted

The PLA entered the 21st century in the midst of a transformation from essentially an infantry based force into one designed around combined arms mech­anized operations. A decade into the new century, the PLA is redesigning its forces into battle groups, using modular force structures and logistics to sup­port operations in high altitude and complex terrains, conduct out of area operations, and develop the core for its vision of a hardened and network-centric army.

Macgregor has recently updated his concept to account for the past decade of US war experience. Whereas current army plans call for reducing the force to 490,000, the Macgregor Transformation Model (MTM) can produce an army with as few as 420,000 troops that actually has greater combat power than the force of 535,000 had before the reduction, but cost more than $10bn a year less.  The MTM would also produce a more strategically responsive army, and perhaps most importantly, could be sustained at this high level of performance even in the era of constrained budgets. The US military leaders continue to reject MTM, while the Chinese have embraced it and are years into the transformation.

Before the United States shares a fate with 1940 Great Britain and falls victim to an ignored reformer’s ideas, we must reorganize the US army into a stronger force while there is yet time. Logic affirms the reasonableness of such action. Budgets demand it.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the US Army.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/08/us-military-preparing-for-wrong-future

Afghanistan: Taliban backers win £100m in US contracts

Washington politicians demand tighter controls to stop cash for reconstruction from going to supporters of Afghan insurgency

Jonathan Owen

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The US government has awarded more than $150m (£98m) in contracts to companies and individuals in Afghanistan that are known to support the Taliban, according to a US spending watchdog.

Multimillion dollar contracts have been given over the past five years to 43 companies working in construction, logistics, road building and IT that have links to the insurgents.

The head of the US-based Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), John F Sopko, said: “Dating back to 2008, Sigar has identified more than $150m in reconstruction contracts and sub-contracts that have been awarded to companies known to be providing material support to insurgent and terrorist organisations in Afghanistan.”

Despite warnings about this last year from both Sigar and General James Mattis, the former commander of US Central Command, the army has failed to act.

In a new report to the US Congress last week, Mr Sopko said: “I am deeply troubled that the US military can pursue, attack, and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the US government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract.”

In a response, the Pentagon spokesman, Matthew Bourke, said: “The Army Procurement Fraud Branch did receive and review the 43 recommendations late last year, but the report did not include enough supporting evidence to initiate suspension and debarment under Federal Acquisition Regulations.”

It is not yet known how many of the 43 individuals and businesses may have been given contracts by Britain. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Although US law prohibits terrorist organisations or their supporters from being awarded government contracts, this applies to the Department of Defense, but not to the Department of State or the US Agency for International Development. It also relates to contracts worth $100,000 (£65,000) or more – despite most contracts being worth less than this.

Last week, a group of Republican and Democrat politicians proposed new legislation to give Sigar greater powers, enabling the watchdog to suspend or debar Afghan and foreign contractors.

Jason Chaffetz, a Republican Congressman, said: “It’s sickening to think that we’ve been giving money to the very people who are killing our brave servicemen and women.”

As the summer “fighting season” gets under way a resurgent Taliban is attacking across the country. It is in stark contrast to the repeated assurances by the US and UK that progress is being made and we are “on track” to meet the 2014 deadline for withdrawing combat troops.

Civilians are suffering as fighting intensifies, with a 23 per cent rise in the number of men women and children killed or wounded in the first half of this year compared to 2012. Since January more than 3,800 civilians have been killed or wounded, according to a report from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) released last week.

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/afghanistan-taliban-backers-win-100m-in-us-contracts-8744952.html#

Parents of SEAL killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash join billion-dollar lawsuit against the government after ‘their Verizon phone was tapped when they started asking questions over their son’s death’

  • Charles and Mary Anne Strange, from  Philadelphia, said they heard strange tapping on the line in the months after  son Michael’s death
  • Mr Strange said: ‘When  I started asking questions, that’s when my phone  got tapped’

By  Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 21:31 EST, 12  June 2013 |  UPDATED: 21:55 EST, 12 June 2013

A couple whose Navy SEAL son was killed in  Afghanistan have joined a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government over  the National Security Agency’s collection  of Verizon phone records.

Charles and Mary Anne Strange joined the  suit, which seeks billions in damages, after it was filed in federal court in  D.C. on Sunday, accusing Obama’s administration of breaching the privacy of  millions of Americans.

The couple, from Philadelphia, lost their  25-year-old son Michael in a helicopter crash on August 6, 2011 while he served  in Afghanistan.

In pursuit: Charles Strange and his wife Mary Anne, whose Navy SEAL son Michael was killed in Afghanistan, have joined a class action against the government as they believe their phone was tappedIn pursuit: Charles Strange and his wife Mary Anne,  whose Navy SEAL son Michael was killed in Afghanistan, have joined a class  action against the government as they believe their phone was  tapped

Killed in action: Michael Strange, 25, died when his helicopter went down in Afghanistan in 2011Killed in action: Michael Strange, 25, died when his  helicopter went down in Afghanistan in 2011

Mr Strange told CBS:  ‘Somebody has to be held accountable for  my son’s death. Thirty brave  Americans, the biggest loss in the Afghan  war.

‘And that’s when I started asking questions,  that’s when my phone  got tapped.’

The grieving father, from Torresdale,  said he heard strange tapping noises  during calls and received text messages from unknown numbers in the months after  his son died.

Mr Strange believes that he was among the  millions of Verizon customers being monitored by the NSA because he has been  highly critical of the Obama administration.

The couple believe that their son’s  helicopter could have been shot down by insurgents in retaliation for the  killing of Osama Bin Laden three months earlier, ABC reported.

Mr Strange claims that when he reported the  odd tapping to Verizon and the messages, an employee told him that someone was  listening in the U.S. and Afghanistan.

The couple are outraged at being monitored by  the government, having done nothing wrong.

Evidence? Mr Strange points to the text and call on his phone from the unknown numberEvidence? Mr Strange points to the text and call on his  phone from the unknown number

Watching: Mr Strange said that a Verizon employee told him his phone was being monitored Watching: Mr Strange said that a Verizon employee told  him his phone was being monitored

The suit, against President Obama, the NSA  and Justice Department, was originally filed by attorney Larry  Klayman who founded Freedom Watch, a political advocacy group.

Mr Klayman, a former federeal prosecutor,  also plans to file a lawsuit on Thursday against Facebook,  Google, Microsoft and six other companies for their allegedly complicity.

The NSA’s practice of monitoring customers  was revealed by former employee Edward Snowden who has since fled his home in  Hawaii for Hong Kong.

Last week, the Guardian newspaper in the UK  reported that the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25  issued an order granting the NSA permission to collect telephone records of  millions of Verizon customers. The order was good until July 19, the newspaper  said.

The order requires Verizon, one of the  nation’s largest telecommunications companies, on an ‘ongoing, daily  basis’ to  give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its  systems, both within the  U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.

Whistleblower: Edward Snowden, a former NSA employee, blew the cover on the government's monitoring of thousands of U.S. citizensWhistleblower: Edward Snowden, a former NSA employee, blew the cover on the government's monitoring of thousands of U.S. citizens

Whistleblower: Edward Snowden, a former NSA employee,  blew the cover on the government’s monitoring of thousands of U.S.  citizens

Big Brother is watching: The NSA program PRISM collects data on millions of internet users Big Brother is watching: The NSA program PRISM collects  data on millions of internet users

The American Civil Liberties Union also sued  the Obama administration on Tuesday, asking the government to halt its  phone-tracking program that it says is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in New  York by the American Civil Liberties Union, along with the New York Civil  Liberties Union.

‘The practice is akin to snatching every  American’s address book – with annotations detailing whom we spoke to, when we  talked, for how long, and from where,’ the lawsuit says.

‘“It gives the government a comprehensive  record of our associations and public movements, revealing a wealth of detail  about our familial, political, professional, religious, and intimate  associations.’

The lawsuit – which names as defendants the  heads of national intelligence as well as the agencies they lead, including the  National Security Agency, the FBI, the Department of Defense and the Department  of Justice – also asks the court to purge phone records collected under the  program, claiming the government action violates the First and Fourth Amendments  of the Constitution.

The Department of Justice did not immediately  return a call seeking comment. Obama has defended the program and says privacy  must be balanced with security.

The ACLU claims standing as a former customer  of Verizon, adding that the government likely has much of its metadata stored in  its databases.

The suit also alleges the government’s  program exceeds the congressional authority provided by the Patriot Act and  singles out a particular provision that has given the government more leeway in  obtaining various records for intelligence investigations.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2340686/NSA-leak-Parents-Of-slain-Navy-SEAL-Join-Verizon-class-action-lawsuit-claiming-phone-tapped.html#ixzz2W48z6lKj Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Militants attack NATO headquarters in Kabul International Airport

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a car bomb attack in the capital, Kabul. (File photo)

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a car bomb attack in the capital, Kabul. (File photo)
Mon Jun 10, 2013 3:12AM GMT

Kabul International Airport is home to the NATO Joint Command headquarters.

Militants have attacked a US-led military base inside Kabul International Airport in the Afghan capital, Press TV reports.

The attack was carried out shortly after dawn on Monday. Large explosions and gunfire were also heard in the area.
The US Embassy in the diplomatic area of Kabul also sounded its ‘duck and cover’ alarm.
The militants, armed with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades, are said to have seized control of a building under construction near the airport, from which they targeted the base.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. However, the Taliban militant group said in April that it had begun its ‘spring offensive’ against the US-led foreign forces in the country.

Hashmat Stanikzai, Kabul’s police chief said that a group of attackers “entered a building in Qasaba road, west of Kabul airport, and started sporadic shooting.”

“Now the area is sealed off by the security forces and a stand-off between security forces and the attackers is ongoing,” the police chief added.

Kabul International Airport is home to the NATO Joint Command headquarters, and all flights in and out of the airport have been canceled due to the attack. Other NATO bases across the Afghan capital were also locked down.
The large NATO headquarters at the Kabul airport runs the day-to-day operations of the foreign forces in Afghanistan.
The Afghan capital last came under attack on May 24, when the Taliban militants carried out an assault on a compound of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Afghan President Hamid Karzai admits to millions of dollars of US payments to national security

 

Monday, 29 April 2013

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Monday that his national security team has been receiving payments from the US government for the past 10 years.

Mr Karzai confirmed the payments when he was asked about a story published in The New York Times, which cited high-level Afghan officials saying the CIA had given the Afghan National Security Council tens of millions of dollars in monthly payments delivered in suitcases.

Mr Karzai said the welcome monthly payments were not a “big amount”. He said they were used to give assistance to the wounded and sick, to pay rent for housing and for other “operational” purposes.

The newspaper quotes Khalil Roman, who served as Mr Karzai’s deputy chief of staff from 2002 until 2005, as calling the vast CIA payments “ghost money” that “came in secret, and it left in secret.” It also quotes unidentified American officials as saying that “the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.”

AP

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/afghan-president-hamid-karzai-admits-to-millions-of-dollars-of-us-payments-to-national-security-8595493.html#

Millions in CIA “ghost money” paid to Afghan president’s office -NYT

Source: Reuters – Mon, 29 Apr 2013 01:43 AM

Author: Reuters

April 29 (Reuters) – Tens of millions of U.S. dollars in cash were delivered by the CIA in suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags to the office of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai for more than a decade, according to the New York Times, citing current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.

The so-called “ghost money” was meant to buy influence for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) but instead fuelled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan, the newspaper quoted U.S. officials as saying.

“The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan”, one American official said, “was the United States.”

The CIA declined to comment on the report and the U.S. State Department did not immediately comment. The New York Times did not publish any comment from Karzai or his office.

“We called it ‘ghost money’,” Khalil Roman, who served as Karzai’s chief of staff from 2002 until 2005, told the New York Times. “It came in secret and it left in secret.”

For more than a decade the cash was dropped off every month or so at the Afghan president’s office, the newspaper said.

Handing out cash has been standard procedure for the CIA in Afghanistan since the start of the war.

The cash payments to the president’s office do not appear to be subject to oversight and restrictions placed on official American aid to the country or the CIA’s formal assistance programmes, like financing Afghan intelligence agencies, and do not appear to violate U.S. laws, said the New York Times.

There was no evidence that Karzai personally received any of the money, Afghan officials told the newspaper. The cash was handled by his National Security Council, it added.

U.S. and Afghan officials familiar with the payments were quoted as saying that the main goal in providing the cash was to maintain access to Karzai and his inner circle and to guarantee the CIA’s influence at the presidential palace, which wields tremendous power in Afghanistan’s highly centralized government.

Much of the money went to warlords and politicians, many with ties to the drug trade and in some cases the Taliban, the New York Times said. U.S. and Afghan officials were quoted as saying the CIA supported the same patronage networks that U.S. diplomats and law enforcement agents struggled to dismantle, leaving the government in the grip of organised crime.

In 2010, Karzai said his office received cash in bags from Iran, but that it was a transparent form of aid that helped cover expenses at the presidential palace. He said at the time that the United States made similar payments.

The latest New York Times report said much of the Iranian cash, like the CIA money, went to pay warlords and politicians.

For most of Karzai’s 11-year reign, there has been little interest in anti-corruption in the army or police. The country’s two most powerful institutions receive billions of dollars from donors annually but struggle just to recruit and maintain a force bled by high rates of desertion.

(Additional reporting by Alistair Bell and Sarah Lynch in Washington; Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Mark Bendeich)

http://www.trust.org/item/20130429014333-3jotq/?source = hpbreaking

Nearly half of veterans found with blast concussions might have hormone deficiencies

Contact: Donna Krupa dkrupa@the-aps.org American Physiological Society

Condition often unrecognized, mimics symptoms of PTSD, depression

BOSTON—Up to 20 percent of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq have experienced at least one blast concussion. New research suggests that nearly half these veterans may have a problem so under-recognized that even military physicians may fail to look for it. A new study conducted by Charles W. Wilkinson, Elizabeth A. Colasurdo, Kathleen F. Pagulayan, Jane. B. Shofer, and Elaine R. Peskind, all of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington in Seattle, has found that about 42 percent of screened veterans with blast injuries have irregular hormone levels indicative of hypopituitarism.

Many conditions associated with hypopituitarism mimic other common problems that veterans can suffer, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, explains study leader Wilkinson. However, unlike those other conditions, those under the banner head of hypopituitarism can be can often be well-controlled by replacing the deficient hormones. “This could be a largely missed opportunity for successful treatment,” Wilkinson says.

The team will discuss their study, entitled, “Prevalence of Chronic Hypopituitarism After Blast Concussion,” at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting, being held April 20-24, 2013 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Boston, Mass. The poster presentation is sponsored by the American Physiological Society (APS), a co-sponsor of the event.  As the findings are being presented at a scientific conference, they should be considered preliminary, as they have not undergone the peer review process that is conducted prior to the data being published in a scientific journal.

A Simple Screen

Wilkinson explains that researchers have recently recognized that traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can cause hypopituitarism—a decrease in the concentrations of at least one of eight hormones produced by the pituitary, a gland seated at the base of the brain. Studies in the last few years have suggested that between 25 and 50 percent of people who receive TBIs have low pituitary hormone levels. However, these early studies have focused on injuries that civilians are more likely to receive, such as an automobile accident.

As a research physiologist who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Wilkinson decided to investigate whether veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who suffer blast injuries show a similar frequency of hypopituitarism.

He and his colleagues collected blood samples from 35 veterans coming home from these wars and diagnosed with a blast concussion about a year prior—enough time for hormone changes to become evident. They then did a screen to compare blood concentrations of the eight hormones produced by the pituitary with the documented normal levels of these hormones.

Missed Opportunity for Treatment

The researchers found that about 42 percent of these veterans showed abnormally low levels of at least one of these hormones. The most common low hormone was human growth hormone, which can cause behavioral and cognitive symptoms similar to PTSD and depression, along with increases in blood lipids and changes in metabolism and blood pressure that can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The second most common problem was hypogonadism, changes in sexual hormones that can affect body composition and sexual function.

The researchers also saw that some veterans had abnormally low levels of vasopressin and oxytocin, hormones that have been linked to psychiatric problems and bonding. Problems with these hormone levels, in addition to growth hormone, could lead to personality changes that affect relationships with loved ones, Wilkinson explains.

He notes that the prevalence of hypopituitarism in the general population is estimated at 0.03 percent. The 42 percent prevalence that these results suggest is cause for further investigation, he says.

“We’re not diagnosing definite disorders in this study—these individuals would still need a clinical evaluation,” he explains. “But if even 10 percent of these veterans have hypopituitarism, it’s a problem that physicians should be aware of.”

Wilkinson adds that many veterans who suffer blast injuries may never see an endocrinologist—and a neurologist or a psychiatrist, whom they’re more likely to see for post-concussion follow-up, is unlikely to screen for hormonal deficiencies. Because low hormone levels can often be successfully treated, he says, it’s a missed opportunity to help veterans. The work was supported by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

###

About Experimental Biology 2013

Six scientific societies will hold their joint scientific sessions and annual meetings, known as Experimental Biology, from April 20-24, 2013, in Boston. This meeting brings together the leading researchers from a broad array of life science disciplines. The societies include the American Association of Anatomists (AAA), American Physiological Society (APS), American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP), American Society for Nutrition (ASN), and American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). Additional information about the meeting is online at http://bit.ly/ymb7av.

About the American Physiological Society (APS)

The American Physiological Society (APS) is a nonprofit organization devoted to fostering education, scientific research, and dissemination of information in the physiological sciences. The Society was founded in 1887 and today represents more than 11,000 members and publishes  14 peer-reviewed journals.

NOTE TO EDITORS: To receive a copy of the abstract or schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact Donna Krupa at DKrupa@the-aps.org, 301.634.7209 (office) or 703.967.2751 (cell) or @Phyziochick on Twitter.

U.S. Army Learns Hard Lessons in N. Korea-like War Game

Mar. 26, 2013 – 12:44PM   |
By PAUL McLEARY   |

WASHINGTON — It took 56 days for the U.S. to flow two divisions’ worth of soldiers into the failed nuclear-armed state of “North Brownland” and as many as 90,000 troops to deal with the country’s nuclear stockpiles, a major U.S. Army war game concluded this winter.

The Unified Quest war game conducted this year by Army planners posited the collapse of a nuclear-armed, xenophobic, criminal family regime that had lorded over a closed society and inconveniently lost control over its nukes as it fell. Army leaders stayed mum about the model for the game, but all indications — and maps seen during the game at the Army War College — point to North Korea.

While American forces who staged in a neighboring friendly country to the south eventually made it over the border into North Brownland, they encountered several problems for which they struggled to find solutions. One of the first was that a large number of nuclear sites were in populated areas, so they had to try to perform humanitarian assistance operations while conducting combined arms maneuver and operations.

One way of doing this was to “use humanitarian assistance as a form of maneuver,” Maj. Gen. Bill Hix, director of the Army’s Concept Development and Learning Directorate, told reporters. The Army dropped humanitarian supplies a short distance from populated areas, drawing the population away from the objective sites, he explained.

Many of the problems encountered were hashed out with Army leaders at a Senior Leader Seminar on March 19 at Fort McNair in Washington. The event—which included the Army chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, and the vice chief, Gen. John Campbell, along with a collection of three- and four-star generals — was off the record, but under terms of the agreement that allowed a handful of reporters to cover the event, unattributed quotes can be reported.

One of the major complications was that “technical ISR was not capable of closing the gap” caused by not having human intelligence assets in the country for years before the fight, one participant said. Also, “our ability to get north was hindered by our operational inflexibility,” particularly when it comes to dropping troops into austere, contested areas.

To move soldiers quickly, Marine Corps V-22 Ospreys quickly inserted Army units deep behind enemy lines, but leaders found that inserting troops far in front of the main force so quickly often caused them to be surrounded, after which they had to be withdrawn.

Overall, the friendly force ultimately “failed to achieve the operational agility” it needed to succeed, another participant complained, “largely due to the rigidity” of current deployment models. What’s more, the joint force was “able to get the force there quickly, but it was the technical force” that proved more difficult to deploy.

Another participant agreed, adding “the key challenge was timely access to joint enablers” such as ISR and counter-weapons of mass destruction units, which were desperately needed by the general-purpose ground units.

While not all lessons learned from the exercise were fully hashed out in this unclassified setting, some officers involved expressed their views of how the past decade of war has influenced how the Army prepares to fight.

“We’ve had the luxury in the last several wars of a place called Kuwait” from which to launch troops and stage equipment, one officer said. “I think our skills have atrophied in the call you get in the middle of the night,” and in forcible-entry operations from the air and sea. Skills haven’t been kept fresh in doing things such as loading trains full of equipment, and in setting up new command posts, he said.

Another leader agreed. “We have been spoiled by a command-and-control network that has been established for a decade” in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, adding that the Army has to get back to training to operate in an austere environment.

One lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan, reinforced by the Unified Quest game, was that “we’re not going to fight a pure military war again,” one four-star general opined. Instead, being successful in conflict will require a variety of solutions requiring cultural knowledge, political acumen and other intelligence activities. The problem is, according to another officer, that the service needs to better understand the cultures in which it will fight, since “we tend to focus on the clash, when we need to focus on the will” of the local population.

Gen. Robert Cone, director of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, said the difficulties the Army faces in moving troops and materiel around the battlefield again reinforced that “we have significant inter-service dependencies on our ability to move” and that any future fight will be a joint fight.

When asked about the potential for conflict in North Korea specifically, Cone said that while he thinks the forces the U.S. has today in South Korea “are adequate … the question is what forces are adequate for the problem of loose nukes?”

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130326/DEFREG02/303260020/U-S-Army-Learns-Hard-Lessons-N-Korea-like-War-Game?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p

US Commander in Afghanistan issues threat advisory after Karzai’s anti-American comments

Mar 14, 2013 21:29 Moscow Time

isaf афганистан военные нато исаф сша солдат

Photo: EPA

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan has been put on heightened alert in connection with bellicose rhetoric by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, local media reported on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Karzai blamed NATO and the United States for cooperating with the Taliban with an alleged aim of justifying their presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

The statement came after dozens of people were killed in a spate of terrorist attacks in the cities of Kabul and Khost.

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan released a threat advisory to his troops following potentially inflammatory comments from President Hamid Karzai and an increase in violence in recent days.

The coalition command did not specify what prompted the warning but said it was the result of a “sum total” of events.

Earlier this week an Afghan soldier killed two American special forces soldiers in a so-called “insider attack.” The number of such attacks had declined this year after a large spike last year.

Bombings in Kabul over the weekend, when new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was visiting the country, killed 17 Afghans.

Karzai meanwhile accused the United States of conspiring with the Taliban to convince the population that U.S. forces should stay beyond 2014. The remarks increased already strained relations between the United States and Karzai.

The coalition has also delayed a planned handover of authority at the detention facility at Bagram because of continued disagreement over the transition to Afghan control. The United States is reportedly concerned over the potential release of suspects deemed a continuing threat.

U.S. officials said the coalition “routinely” conducts such threat assessments and issues advisories. The assessment was issued by Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, the coalition commander. It was first reported by The New York Times.

“This advisory was prudent given increased coalition casualties in recent days,” the command said in a statement. “General Dunford’s e-mail is simply an example of this vigilance.”

Voice of Russia, RIA, USA Today

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_14/ISAF-on-heightened-alert-in-Afghanistan/

 

Afghan president Hamid Karzai Claims US was effectively colluding with the Taliban in maintaining violence to prolong America’s presence in the country.White House rejected as “categorically false”

White House: claims of US collusion with Taliban ‘categorically false’

Obama spokesman rejects Karzai’s criticism of US as Afghan in police uniform kills seven including two American troops

Ewen MacAskill in Washington

guardian.co.uk, Monday 11 March 2013 15.51 EDT

Chuck Hagel in Afghanistan

The latest insider attack capped a troubled three-day visit to Afghanistan by new defence secretary Chuck Hagel. Photograph: Getty Images

The White House rejected as “categorically false” a claim by Afghan president Hamid Karzai that the US was effectively colluding with the Taliban in maintaining violence to prolong America’s presence in the country.

Karzai’s outburst on Sunday, while new US defence secretary Chuck Hagel was making his first visit to the country, highlighted tensions between Washington and the Afghan government as Nato forces withdraw from the country and negotiations continue over the number of troops to be left behind after 2014.

The White House response to Karzai’s latest criticism of the US came as an Afghan dressed in a police uniform opened fire in the disputed Wardak, province killing two US soldiers and at least two Afghans.

One of the Americans killed was a special forces operative from the Green Berets, CNN reported.

Karzai had set Monday as the deadline for the withdrawal of all US special operatives from Wardak province after allegations of abuse, but the US has so far refused.

At the daily White House briefing on Monday, press secretary Jay Carney said: “Any suggestion that the US is colluding with the Taliban is categorically  false. Secretary Hagel addressed the questions with president Karzai in their meeting.

“The US has spent enormous blood and treasure for the past 12 years supporting the Afghan people in an effort to ensure stability and security in that country. The last thing we would do is support any kind of violence, particularly involving innocent civilians.”

Carney was measured in his response, resisting a call at the press conference to use more strident language. In the past, the Obama administration responded more vigorously to critical comments by Karzai but concluded this was counter-productive.

Carney suggested the latest comments would not have an impact on the schedule for withdrawal, which he stressed had been put in place with agreement with Nato and other allies.

“There is no question there have been a number of difficult security incidents, and there have been comments by President Karzai with which we have  disagreed. But our policy has not changed. We went into Afghanistan because we are attacked from Afghanistan.”

A decison on the size of the post-2014 US force would be made at a later date by Obama., Carney added.

The latest insider attack capped a troubled three-day visit by Hagel. The faltering start will provide more material for his many critics in Congress who opposed his nomination, particularly after his hesitant appearance at his Senate confirmation hearing.

A press statement from Isaf military headquarters in Afghanistan said the two Americans were killed in an apparent ‘green-on-blue’ incident, along with at least two Afghan soldiers. A further 10 were wounded. The attacker used a machine-gun mounted on a truck in the village of Jalrez.

Hagel failed to resolve the dispute in Wardak province over withdrawal of special operations forces. He was also scheduled to hand over control of Parwan prison to Afghan authorities but this was cancelled a day before the ceremony.

It is understood the deal collapsed amid continued disagreement over detention of prisoners without trial, and a US demand that it have power to block the release of inmates it considers particularly dangerous.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/11/white-house-afghanistan-karzai-us-collusion

 

$36 Billion of Military Hardware Could Be Destroyed in Afghan Pullout

Newsmax

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 11:21 AM

By: Todd Beamon

The Obama White House is cutting $65 billion in the sequester, but it could easily leave or torch 750,000 pieces of major military hardware — worth $36 billion — in Afghanistan after U.S. troops pull out by the end of next year.

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Here are the options, according to Face the Facts USA of the George Washington University: Leave the equipment — or destroy it — in Afghanistan; move it to other U.S. military outposts; or transfer it to another U.S. agency or to another country.
The estimated cost for the latter two options: $5.7 billion.

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The equipment includes trucks, aircraft, and armored vehicles — most of which are controlled by the Army.

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Because the Afghanistan terrain is mountainous and landlocked, transport would be difficult. But leaving it behind intact could put the equipment in the wrong hands.

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So, is it best to torch $36 billion in U.S. military assets?

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http://www.newsmax.com/Newswidget/Afghanistan-withdrawal-billions-hardware/2013/03/05/id/493173?promo_code=125BD-1&utm_source=125BDTelegraph_Media_Group&utm_medium=nmwidget&utm_campaign=widgetphase1

Syria must be defenseless for America to illegaly invade, Rated:XXX ” Russian troops are on the ground”

Jan 9, 2013 20:31 Moscow Time

31.07.2012 сирия война алеппо бои противостояние сирия оппозиция сирия конфликт повстанцы\n

Photo: EPA

Poised and ready to invade Syria and continue its plans for complete global military and political domination at any cost, the US is faltering and has yet to invade Syria. Most likely stopped by the fact that Syrian defenses are robust enough to effectively deal with the invader’s forces and that Russian troops are on the ground, the US is stuck in a holding pattern. The next illegal US act of aggressive war is Syria. Coming soon! Rated: XXX.

The West continues to debate what the United States should do in Syria and the US what options it has to bring about another interventionist invasion yet is continuing to have problems in bringing about the conditions it needs to give the green light to military forces staged and waiting to pounce.

The arrogance of those debating the fate of Syria from thousands of miles away, as if they even have a right to in the first place, is mind boggling. Who told the United States that they are responsible for deciding the fate of Syria or the Syrian people? No one. Who told the United States that they have some right or some mandate under international law to “intervene” wherever they desire? No one. Yet that is what they are doing.

Some pundits and analysts are saying: Use the Kosovo model, or the Libyan scenario, or the Afghanistan example, or don’t repeat the mistakes in Iraq. However each and every one of them is missing the whole point and that being from Yugoslavia to Iraq, from Afghanistan to Libya, from the Arab Spring to Syria, US intervention is not wanted or asked for.

The US understands this and knows the real reason it is going after these countries, that being resources and geo-political plans, yet it can not openly state such to the world.

Yugoslavia worked because the right propaganda was spread at the right time and the world was not ready nor did it have reason to believe that the US’ intentions were anything more than what they were publically touting. Since then every pretext for invading Yugoslavia has been found and proven to have been false and self-created by the US whose real goal was to carry out the geo-political redesigning of the Balkans.

It became clear in Yugoslavia and in what has taken place since then in that region that the United States has one thing in mind when carrying out their interventionist invasions and that is control of resources and the advancement of geopolitical ambitions and position.

If anyone doubts look at who they supported and continue to support in Serbia and in Kosovo, Muslim extremists, drug traffickers and black-market organ traders. Why? Because the US is able to manipulate and “work” with these elements, whereas Christian Serbians who lean geopolitically towards Russia are a bit more difficult to manipulate and bend to the American will.

We can see this same kind of thinking all over the world and in particular in the Middle East. The United States has no real interest in human rights or in oppressed peoples, that is a proven given, what it does care about is resources, ease of manipulation and geo-political clout.

Yugoslavia was a watershed moment for NATO and the US and the more or less success of the operation emboldened the US to attempt to do more. To launch a war, reshape part of Europe, devastate a people and do so all on the whim of a president who wanted to distract the electorate from a sex-scandal, seemed bold and dangerous, but it more or less worked.

There were doubters and there were detractors and the destruction of Yugoslavia did not have the broad support that the planners in Washington had hoped for. So a group of Neo-Conservatives was tasked with studying the issue of how to bring about the pre-text for a global war of domination. Those in power were tired of the United Nations and the international community and even the American electorate always sticking their noses into everything and asking for reasons and justifications, they wanted free-reign.

So those Neo-Conservatives, calling themselves the Project for the New American Century came up with a plan for complete and total world domination. The only problem as they saw it was that to allow for the implementation of the plan, after all what they were doing was illegal, would require a catalyst, and as the called it themselves, “A new Pearl Harbor!”.

The carefully planned and orchestrated events of 9-11 were the catalyst that they needed to launch an open ended and endless “War on Terror” that had no borders and allowed for anyone to become a target. First on the list was the invasion of Iraq and second Afghanistan, Hussein was the first target because he had changed all oil trade in Iraq to the Euro the day before the invasion and the United Nations and International inspectors already knew that Hussein had no weapons with which to fight back.

Afghanistan was another story but it did not really matter because the Taliban, like al-Qaeda had always been on the US payroll and wiping out that little backward country, as the US military planners thought, would be no problem. That little invasion took place over ten years ago and the US is still in Afghanistan and has been completely defeated.

Then we have the case of Libya, another country that had agreed to US inspections for those evil WMDs and had proven it did not possess weapons and then was invaded after changing its oil trade to the Euro. Libya had long been on the US wish list of countries to invade but the problem was that by then the US had pretty much lost of the capital it had gained from the orchestrated events of 9-11, and people started questioning.

Now we have the Syrian “intervention”, and everything that the United States now does is being questioned. The world has seen one act of aggressive invasion after the other carried out by the US and NATO and has quite frankly had enough.

Why hasn’t the US invaded Syria yet? One reason is you and I. Every false flag plan they come up with, we are there to expose it. Every false and sanctimonious move they make to allow them to invade and rape another country we are there to document. We know they are funding terrorists and mercenaries and that the Syrian people themselves do not want America. Lastly Russia is stopping it, by giving the Syrian people what Libya and Iraq did not have, the tools and the ways and means to defend themselves and defend their country.

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_01_09/Syria-must-be-defenseless-for-America-to-illegaly-invade-Rated-XXX/

Did general David Petraeus grant friends access to top secret files?

Petraeus was forced out of the CIA in part because his mistress read sensitive documents. Now it is alleged he granted two friends astonishing access to top secret files as he ran the Afghan surge. In a painstaking investigation, Rajiv Chandrasekaran reveals how the volunteers won big donations from defence firms – and how they pushed the army towards a far more aggressive strategy

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, a husband-and-wife team of hawkish military analysts, put their jobs at influential Washington think tanks on hold for almost a year to work for General David H. Petraeus when he was the top US commander in Afghanistan.

Given desks, email accounts and top-level security clearances in Kabul, they pored through classified intelligence reports, participated in senior-level strategy sessions and probed the assessments of field officers in order to advise Petraeus about how to fight the war differently.

Their compensation from the US government for their efforts, which often involved 18-hour work days, seven-day weeks and dangerous battlefield visits? Zero dollars.

Although Fred Kagan said he and his wife wanted no pay in part to remain “completely independent”, the extraordinary arrangement raises new questions about the access and influence Petraeus accorded to civilian friends while he was running the Afghan war.

Petraeus allowed his biographer-turned-paramour, Paula Broadwell, to read sensitive documents and accompany him on trips. But the access granted to the Kagans, whose think-tank work has been embraced by Republican politicians, went even further.

The general made the Kagans de facto senior advisers, a status that afforded them numerous private meetings in his office, priority travel across the war zone and the ability to read highly secretive transcripts of intercepted Taliban communications, according to current and former senior US military and civilian officials who served in the HQ at the time.

The Kagans used those privileges to advocate substantive changes in the US war plan, including a harder-edged approach than some officers advocated in combating the Haqqani network, a Taliban faction in eastern Afghanistan, the officials said.

The pro bono relationship, which is now being scrutinised by military lawyers, yielded valuable benefits for the general and the couple. The Kagans’ proximity to Petraeus, the country’s most famous living general, provided an incentive for defence contractors to contribute to Kim Kagan’s think tank. For Petraeus, embracing two respected national security analysts in Republican circles helped to shore up support for the war among Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.

Fred Kagan, speaking in an interview with his wife, acknowledged the arrangement was “strange and uncomfortable” at times. “We were going around speaking our minds, trying to force people to think about things in different ways and not being accountable to the heads” of various departments in the headquarters, he said.

The extent of the couple’s involvement in Petraeus’s headquarters was not known to senior White House and Pentagon officials involved in war policy, two of those officials said. More than a dozen senior military officers and civilian officials were interviewed for this article; most spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters. Petraeus, through a former aide, declined to comment for the piece.

As war-zone volunteers, the Kagans were not bound by the stringent rules that apply to military personnel and private contractors. They could  raise concerns directly with Petraeus, instead of going through subordinate officers, and were free to speak their minds without repercussion.

Some military officers and civilian US government employees in Kabul praised the couple’s contributions — one general noted that “they did the work of 20 intelligence analysts”. Others expressed deep unease about their activities in the headquarters, particularly because of their affiliations and advocacy in Washington.

Fred Kagan, who works at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, was one of the intellectual architects of President George W Bush’s troop surge in Iraq and has sided with the Republican Party on many national security issues. Kim Kagan runs the Institute for the Study of War, which favours an aggressive US foreign policy. The Kagans supported President Obama’s decision to order a surge in Afghanistan, but they later broke with the White House on the subject of troop reductions. Both argue against any significant drawdown in forces there next year.

After the couple’s most recent trip in September, they provided a briefing on the war and other foreign policy matters to the Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

The Kagans said they continued to receive salaries from their think-tanks while in Afghanistan. Kim Kagan’s institute is funded in part by large defence contractors. During Petraeus’s tenure in Kabul, she sent out a letter soliciting contributions so the organisation could continue its military work, according to two people who saw the letter.

On 8 August 2011, a month after he relinquished command in Afghanistan to take over at the CIA, Petraeus spoke at the institute’s first “President’s Circle” dinner, where he accepted an award from Kim Kagan. The private event, held at the Newseum in Washington, also drew executives from defence contractors who fund the institute.

“What the Kagans do is they grade my work on a daily basis,” Petraeus said, prompting chortles from the audience. “There’s some suspicion that there’s a hand up my back, and it makes my lips talk, and it’s operated by one of the Doctors Kagan.”

Before the Iraq war hit rock bottom, the Kagans were little-known academics with doctorates in military history from Yale University who taught at West Point. He specialised in the Soviets, she in the ancient Greeks and Romans.

In 2005, Fred Kagan jumped to the American Enterprise Institute and joined the fractious debate over the Iraq war, arguing against the Bush administration’s planned troop withdrawals. His follow-on research, conducted with his wife and retired General Jack Keane, the former vice chief of staff of the Army, provided the strategic underpinning for the troop surge Bush approved in January 2007. After Obama was elected, he made clear that his strategic priority was Afghanistan. In March 2009, they co-wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times that called for sending more forces to Afghanistan.

When General Stanley McChrystal assumed command of the war that summer, he invited several national security experts to help draft an assessment of the conflict for the Defence Secretary, Robert Gates. The 14-member group included experts from several Washington think-tanks. Among them were the Kagans. The Afghan assessment struck an alarming tone that helped McChrystal make his case for a troop surge, which Obama eventually authorised.

The Kagans should have been thrilled, but they soon grew concerned. They thought McChrystal’s headquarters was not providing enough information to them about the state of the war. The military began to slow-roll their requests to visit Afghanistan. In early 2010, they wrote an email to McChrystal, copied to Petraeus, that said they “were coming to the conclusion that the campaign was off track and that it was not going to be successful,” Fred Kagan said. Worried about the consequences of losing the Kagans, McChrystal authorised the trip, according to the staff members.

After their trip, which lasted about two weeks, the Kagans penned a piece for the Wall Street Journal. “Military progress is steadily improving dynamics on the ground,” they wrote.

“We obviously came away with… a more nuanced view that persuaded us that we were incorrect in the assessment that we had gone in with,” Fred Kagan said in the interview. The Defence Department permits independent analysts to observe combat operations, but the practice became far more common when Petraeus became the top commander in Iraq. He has said that conversations with outside specialists helped to shape his strategic thinking.

The take-home benefit was equally significant: when the opinion makers returned home, they inevitably wrote in newspapers, gave speeches and testified before Congress, generally imparting a favourable message about progress under Petraeus, all of which helped him sell the war effort and expand his popularity. Petraeus called them his “directed telescopes” and urged them to focus on the challenge of tackling corruption and building an effective government in Afghanistan.

When they returned in September 2010, the Kagans’ writ no longer resembled the traditional think tank visit or an assessment mission intended to inform an incoming commander.

They were given desks in the office of the Strategic Initiatives Group, the commander’s in-house think-tank, which typically is staffed with military officers and civilian government employees. The general’s staff helped upgrade their security clearances from “Secret” to “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information, the highest-level of US government classification.

The new clearances allowed the Kagans to visit “the pit”, the high-security lower level of the Combined Joint Intelligence Operations Centre on the headquarters. There, they could read transcripts of Taliban phone and radio conversations monitored by the National Security Agency.

“They’d spend hours in there,” said one former senior civilian official at the headquarters. “They talked about how much they loved reading intel.”

Their immersion occurred at an opportune time. Petraeus was fond of speaking about the importance of using troops to protect Afghan communities from insurgents, but he recognised that summer that the Obama White House wanted to narrow the scope of the war. As a consequence, the general decided to emphasise attacking insurgent strongholds – and so did the Kagans. They focused on the Haqqani network, which US officials believe is supported by Pakistan’s intelligence service. Haqqani fighters have conducted numerous high-profile attacks against US and Afghan targets in Kabul and other major cities.

The Kagans believed US commanders needed to shift their focus from protecting key towns and cities to striking Haqqani encampments and smuggling routes, according to several current and former military and civilian officials familiar the issue.

In the summer of 2010, they shared their views with field officers during a trip to the east. “They implied to brigade commanders that Petraeus would prefer them to devote their resources to killing Haqqanis,” said Doug Ollivant, a former adviser to the two-star general in charge of eastern Afghanistan. But Petraeus had not yet issued new directives to his three-star subordinate or the two-star in the east. “It created huge confusion,” a senior officer said. “Everyone knew the Kagans were close to Petraeus, so everyone assumed they were speaking for the boss.”

While the Kagans refused to discuss their work in detail — they said it was privileged and confidential — Fred Kagan insisted that they were careful to note before every meeting “that we were not speaking for Petraeus”.

Fred Kagan said he and his wife wanted to facilitate conversations about vital tactical issues, exposing field commanders “to different ideas and different ways of looking at the problem.”

The Kagans are prolific contributors to debates about national security policy, cranking out a stream of opinion pieces and convening panel discussions at their respective institutions. But once they began working for Petraeus, they ceased writing and commenting in public. “When we were in Afghanistan… we were not playing the Washington game,” Fred Kagan said. “We were not thinking about anything … except how to defeat the enemy.”

Although they functioned as members of Petraeus’s staff, they said they did not want to be paid. “There are actual patriots in the world,” Fred Kagan said. “It was important to me not to be seen to be profiting from the war.” Military officials said the Defence Department travel rules permit civilian experts to provide services to the military without direct compensation. A spokesman for the US Central Command, Colonel John Robinson, said that the military was still examining to what extent Petraeus’s arrangement with the Kagans “satisfied regulations regarding civilian services to government organisations”.

The Kagans’ volunteerism was an open secret at the headquarters, and it bred suspicion. Some officers questioned whether they funnelled confidential information to Republicans – a claim the Kagans deny. Others worried that the couple was serving as in-house spies for Petraeus. A colonel who worked for Petraeus said the Kagans “did great work,” but “the situation was very, very weird. It’s not how you run an HQ.”

For Kim Kagan, spending so many months away from research and advocacy work in Washington could have annoyed many donors to the Institute for the Study of War. But her major backers appear to have been pleased that she cultivated such close ties with Petraeus, who went from Kabul to head the CIA before resigning this autumn over his affair with Broadwell. At the August 2011 dinner honouring Petraeus, Kagan thanked executives from two defence contractors who sit on her institute’s corporate council, DynCorp International and CACI International. The event was sponsored by General Dynamics. All three firms have business interests in the Afghan war.

Kagan told the audience that their funding allowed her to assist Petraeus. “The ability to have a 15-month deployment essentially in the service of those who needed some help – and the ability to go at a moment’s notice – that’s something you have sponsored,” she said.

After accepting the award, Petraeus heaped praise on the institute. “Thanks to all of you for supporting an organisation that General Keane very accurately described as filling a niche — a very, very important one,” he said. “It’s now a deployable organisation. We’re going to start issuing them combat service stripes.”

Timeline: David Petraeus

7 November 1952:  Born in New York.

1972: Marries Holly Knowlton.

2006: Meets Paula Broadwell, a Harvard graduate.

October 2008: Promoted to head of US Central Command.

June 2010: Appointed head of international forces in Afghanistan.

September 2011: Takes up post as director of the CIA. November 2011: Starts affair with Ms Broadwell.

January 2012: Ms Broadwell publishes book on General David Petraeus.

June 2012: FBI establishes harrassing emails between Broadwell and Jill Kelley.

22-29 October: Petraeus admits to affair with Ms Broadwell, but denies leaking any security information.

9 November: President Obama accepts his resignation.

13 November: General John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, under internal investigation.

Washington Post

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/did-general-david-petraeus-grant-friends-access-to-top-secret-files-8426225.html#

McChrystal Working for UAE-Owned Arms Brokerage

Dec. 13, 2012 – 11:23AM   |
By ARAM ROSTON   |
Gen. Stanley McChrystal is on the strategic advisory board of Knowledge International LLC.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal is on the strategic advisory board of Knowledge International LLC.   (Defense Department)

From an office park a few miles south of Washington’s Reagan National Airport, a little-known company named Knowledge International LLC does $500 million a year in business.

The firm is among the defense procurement companies owned by the Emirates Advanced Investments group, which is close to the ruling family of the United Arab Emirates. But unlike the other companies in the network, such as Abu Dhabi-based C4 Advanced Solutions, Knowledge International is incorporated in the United States.

Fully licensed as an arms dealer and broker, the company sends American trainers and arms to the UAE, arranging the necessary licenses and agreements with the State Department and the Defense Department.

The company’s strategic advisory board consists of some of the past decade’s brightest names in American land warfare: retired Army Gen. Bryan “Doug” Brown, who headed up the U.S. Special Operations Command; retired Gen. James Conway, former commandant of the Marine Corps and a charismatic figure during the 2003 Iraq invasion; and retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who commanded the International Security Assistance Force, NATO’s Afghanistan command.

A former Special Forces general with a storied career, McChrystal was the architect of President Obama’s Afghanistan war strategy in 2009. But his career ended in 2010 after the publication of “Runaway General,” a Rolling Stone profile that quoted his staff making disparaging remarks about Obama administration officials.

The controversy made him a household name, forced him to resign and sparked a debate over Afghanistan counterinsurgency doctrine. It did not prevent him from following a well-worn path from four-star rank to corporate boardrooms.

The newly retired general founded McChrystal Group, a consultancy, and was appointed chairman of the board of Siemens Government Systems, a German-owned firm, as well as to seats on the board of JetBlue and Navistar.

Unlike these firms, Knowledge International is obscure and a non-public company. Its parent company, EAI, is very close to the government of the UAE and handles major weapon purchases for the UAE military.

Reached for comment, McChrystal’s office referred calls to Daniel Monahan, the managing director of Knowledge International.

In an emailed statement, Monahan wrote, “Gen. McChrystal is a great American and has brought a consistent commitment to excellence to KI. I value his advice and ability to see simple solutions to somewhat complicated scenarios. I’ve benefitted greatly over the past year by his advice and counsel.”

McChrystal’s long-awaited biography, “My Share of the Task,” is due out Jan. 7.

Corporate records show that Knowledge International was registered in Delaware in 2010 by Hussein Ibrahim Al Hammadi, the U.S.-educated CEO of EAI. Hammadi, according to one of the U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks, “is a retired Colonel with the UAE Special Operations Command and has close ties to the Abu Dhabi Al Nahayan royal family.”

An email and a phone call to EAI were not returned.

Knowledge International’s first mission has been to help reorganize UAE’s land forces along U.S. lines.

“We’re focused on doing a transformation — an overall transformation — of their armed forces. There are a number of companies over there doing that, but we are the first U.S. company that is Emirati-owned,” Monahan said in an interview.

A former Air Force pilot, Monahan served as senior military adviser to the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, according to his company biography. Before that he was the deputy director of operations at the White House Military Office.

Monahan said that, so far, Knowledge International has had a limited role in UAE’s efforts to develop advanced technology.

“We don’t have anything ongoing with cyber yet,” he said.

Monahan said the firm tried to broker one deal for fiber-optic hardware for its sister company in the UAE, C4 Advanced Systems, but the transaction fell through.

As for the role of the strategic advisory board, Monahan said McChrystal, Brown and Conroy meet every quarter and have taken one trip together to the UAE.

Efforts to reach Brown and Conroy were unsuccessful.

Flush with oil cash, and situated across the Persian Gulf from Iran, the UAE has been on an arms-buying spree, and it relies heavily on international manpower — including European and U.S. companies — for training and servicing.

Some of the training endeavors have brought scandal. In 2011, the New York Times reported on the nation’s $529 million effort, with the involvement of Blackwater founder Erik Prince, to train a battalion of Colombian mercenaries based in the UAE.

The UAE is now the ninth-largest arms importer in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and it’s a major client for U.S. defense contractors. One recent high-level government-to-government deal with the U.S. was the $3.5 billion agreement to buy Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile systems.

The UAE is a U.S. ally; it is not free from controversy. When Dubai Ports World, which was owned by the UAE, sought to take control of six major U.S. ports in 2006, the deal generated an extraordinary political firestorm of opposition. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., called the development “deeply troubling,” and Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he had “deep concerns.”

———

This story will appear in the January issue of C4ISR Journal.

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20121213/C4ISR01/312130004/McChrystal-Working-UAE-Owned-Arms-Brokerage?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p

Egyptian Jihadi Leader Says: Destroy the Pyramids

Egyptian Jihadi Leader Says Destroy the Pyramids and Sphinx

Egypt’s Great Pyramids (photo credit: Wikipedia)

An Egyptian jihadi leader is calling for the destruction of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, that is, the Great Pyramids. Also on his target: the Great Sphinx. Those historical heritage sites are situated in Giza, just outside Cairo, Egypt’s capital.

The call was made Saturday night on a popular program on Egypt’s Dream TV by jihadist Murgan Salem al-Gohary who says he participated in the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001.

Egypt Independent reveals more about Gohary and his familiarity with the destruction of world heritage sites:

Gohary, 50, is well-known in Egypt for his advocacy of violence. He was sentenced twice under former President Hosni Mubarak, one of the two sentences being life imprisonment. He subsequently fled Egypt to Afghanistan, where he was badly injured in the American invasion. In 2007, he traveled from Pakistan to Syria, which then handed him over to Egypt. After Mubarak’s fall in early 2011, he was released from prison by a judicial ruling.

“All Muslims are charged with applying the teachings of Islam to remove such idols, as we did in Afghanistan when we destroyed the Buddha statues,” he said. […]

“God ordered Prophet Mohamed to destroy idols,” he added. “When I was with the Taliban we destroyed the statue of Buddha, something the government failed to do.”

Egyptian Jihadi Leader Says Destroy the Pyramids and Sphinx

Murgan Salem al-Gohary on Dream TV (via Al Arabiya)

The show also interviewed the vice president of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda Party, Sheikh Abdel Fattah Moro, who rejected the destruction call, emphasizing that the 7th century Arab commander who led the Muslim conquest of Egypt, Amr ibn al-Aas, did not destroy the statues during his military campaign.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/egyptian-jihadi-leader-says-destroy-the-pyramids/

Gen. John Allen investigated for emails to Petraeus friend

latimes.com

The top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, is under investigation for alleged “inappropriate communications” with a woman who is said to have received threatening emails from Paula Broadwell, the woman with whom Petraeus had an extramarital affair.

From the Associated Press

6:53 AM PST, November 13, 2012

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The sex scandal that led to CIA Director David Petraeus’ downfall widened Tuesday with word the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is under investigation for thousands of alleged “inappropriate communications” with another woman involved in the case.

Even as the FBI prepared a timeline for Congress about the investigation that brought to light Petraeus’ extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta revealed that the Pentagon had begun an internal investigation into emails from Gen. John Allen to a Florida woman involved in the case.

Allen succeeded Petraeus as the top American commander in Afghanistan in July 2011, and his nomination to become the next commander of U.S. European Command and the commander of NATO forces in Europe has now been put on hold, as the scandal seemed certain to ensnare another acclaimed military figure.

In a White House statement early Tuesday, National Security spokesman Tommy Vietor said President Barack Obama has held Allen’s nomination at Panetta’s request. Obama, the statement said, “remains focused on fully supporting our extraordinary troops and coalition partners in Afghanistan, who Gen. Allen continues to lead as he has so ably done for over a year.”

It was Broadwell’s threatening emails to Jill Kelley, a Florida woman who is a Petraeus family friend, that led to the FBI’s discovery of communications between Broadwell and Petraeus indicating they were having an affair. Petraeus acknowledged the affair when he resigned from the CIA post on Friday.

In the latest revelations, a Pentagon official traveling with Panetta to Australia said “inappropriate communications” — 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails and other documents from Allen’s communications with Kelley between 2010 and 2012 — are under review. He would not say whether they involved sexual matters or whether they are thought to include unauthorized disclosures of classified information. He said he did not know whether Petraeus is mentioned in the emails.

Allen has denied wrongdoing. If Allen was found to have had an affair with Kelley, he could face charges of adultery, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The Petraeus case has sparked an uproar in Congress, with lawmakers complaining they should have been told earlier about the probe that has roiled the intelligence and military establishment.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called the latest revelations in the case “a Greek tragedy.”

“It’s just tragic,” King said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show. “This has the elements in some ways of a Hollywood movie or a trashy novel.”

The issue of what the FBI knew, when it notified top Obama administration officials, and when Congress was told, has brought criticism from lawmakers, who say they should have been told earlier.

The White House wasn’t informed of the FBI investigation that involved Petraeus until Nov. 6, Election Day, although agents began looking at Petraeus’ actions months earlier, sometime during the summer. Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., complained that she first learned of the matter from the media late last week, and confirmed it in a phone call to the then-CIA director on Friday.

That was the same day Obama accepted Petraeus’ resignation, and the 60-year-old retired Army general, who headed U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan before taking charge of the CIA, acknowledged an affair with Broadwell, and expressed regret.

Defending the notification timing, a senior federal law enforcement official pointed Monday to longstanding policies and practices, adopted following abuses and mistakes that were uncovered during the Nixon administration’s Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. The Justice Department — of which the FBI is part — is supposed to refrain from sharing detailed information about its criminal investigations with the White House.

The FBI also looked into whether a separate set of emails between Petraeus and Broadwell might involve any security breach. That will be a key question Wednesday in meetings involving congressional intelligence committee leaders, FBI deputy director Sean Joyce and CIA deputy director Michael Morell.

A federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the investigation, said the FBI had concluded relatively quickly — and certainly by late summer at the latest — that there was no security breach. Absent a security breach, it was appropriate not to notify Congress or the White House earlier, this official said.

Extramarital affairs are viewed as particularly risky for intelligence officers because they might be blackmailed to keep the affair quiet. For military personnel, adultery is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

According to two federal law enforcement officials, the FBI initially began a criminal investigation of unsigned, harassing emails that were sent, beginning last May, to Kelley, a Tampa socialite. She and her husband, Scott, were longtime friends of Petraeus and his wife, Holly. FBI agents traced the alleged cyber harassment to Broadwell and during that process discovered she was exchanging intimate messages with a private Gmail account. Further investigation revealed that account belonged to Petraeus, under an alias.

Petraeus and Broadwell apparently used a trick, known to terrorists and teenagers alike, to conceal their email traffic, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Rather than transmitting emails to the other’s inbox, they composed at least some messages and instead of transmitting them, left them in a draft folder or in an electronic “dropbox,” the official said. Then the other person could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there. This avoids creating an email trail that is easier for outsiders to intercept or trace.

Agents later told Petraeus that Broadwell sent emails warning Kelley to stay away from the general and carrying a threatening tone.

Friends and former staff members of Petraeus told The Associated Press that he has assured them his relationship with Kelley was platonic, although Broadwell apparently saw her as a romantic rival. They said Petraeus was shocked to learn last summer of Broadwell’s emails to Kelley.

Petraeus also denied to these associates that he had given Broadwell any sensitive military information.

FBI agents who contacted Petraeus told him that sensitive, possibly classified documents related to Afghanistan were found on her computer, the general’s associates said. He assured investigators they did not come from him, and he mused to his associates that they were probably given to her on her reporting trips to Afghanistan by commanders she visited in the field there.

One associate also said Petraeus believes the documents described past operations and had already been declassified, although they might have still been marked “secret.”

Broadwell had high security clearances as part of her former job as a reserve Army major in military intelligence. But those clearances are only in effect when a soldier is on active duty, which she was not at the time she researched the Petraeus biography.

The FBI concluded there was no security breach.

Nevertheless, FBI agents conducted a search of Broadwell’s Charlotte, N.C., home on Monday. And the criminal investigation continued into the emails to Kelley, including whether Petraeus had any hand in them. At that point in late summer, FBI Director Robert Mueller and eventually Attorney General Eric Holder were notified that agents had uncovered what appeared to be an extramarital affair involving Petraeus.

Broadwell and Petraeus have each been questioned by FBI agents twice in recent weeks, with both acknowledging the affair in separate interviews. The FBI’s most recent interviews with Broadwell and with Petraeus both occurred during the week of Oct. 29, days before the election, one of the law enforcement officials said. The FBI notified Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, of the investigation on Tuesday, Nov. 6 — Election Day.

In another twist, an FBI agent who was a friend of Kelley and who passed along information from her to the agents who conducted the investigation, was subsequently told by his superiors to steer clear of the case because they grew concerned that the agent had become obsessed with the investigation, a federal law enforcement official said. Before the case involving Petraeus got under way, the agent had sent Kelley shirtless photos of himself, according to this official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.

Broadwell co-authored a biography titled “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” published in January. She wrote that she met Petraeus in the spring of 2006 while she was a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and she ended up following him on multiple trips to Afghanistan as part of her research.

Petraeus, 60, told one former associate he began an affair with Broadwell, 40, a couple of months after he became CIA director in September 2011. They mutually agreed to end the affair four months ago, but they kept in contact because she was still writing a dissertation on his time commanding U.S. troops overseas, the associate said.

Petraeus told former staffers and friends that he had regularly visited the Kelleys’ home overlooking Tampa Bay. Kelley, 37, served as a sort of social ambassador for U.S. Central Command, hosting parties for the general when Petraeus was commander there from 2008-10.

Jill Kelley regularly kept in touch with Petraeus when he became commander of the Afghanistan war effort, the two exchanging near-daily emails and instant messages, two of his former staffers said. But those messages were exchanged in accounts that his aides monitored as part of their duties and were not romantic in tone, the staffers said.

Petraeus and his family are devastated over the affair — especially Mrs. Petraeus, who “is not exactly pleased right now” after 38 years of marriage, said Steve Boylan, a friend and former Petraeus spokesman who spoke to him over the weekend.

Broadwell, married with two young sons, has not returned phone calls or emails seeking comment.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-naw-petraeus-allen-scandal-20121112,0,267874.story

The Sins Of General David Petraeus

Engineering Evil: Need second confirmation on article data.

Petraeus seduced America. We should never have trusted him.

 

Michael Hastings   BuzzFeed Staff posted  a few minutes ago

Posted  Nov 11, 2012  5:43pm EST

The fraud that General David Petraeus perpetrated on America started many years before the general seduced Paula Broadwell, a lower-ranking officer 20 years his junior, after meeting her on a campus visit to Harvard.

More so than any other leading military figure, Petraeus’ entire philosophy has been based on hiding the truth, on deception, on building a false image. “Perception” is key, he wrote in his 1987 Princeton dissertation: “What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters — more than what actually occurred.”

Yes, it’s not what actually happens that matters — it’s what you can convince the public it thinks happened.

Until this weekend, Petraeus had been incredibly successful in making the public think he was a man of great integrity and honor, among other things. Most of the stories written about him fall under what we hacks in the media like to call “a blow job.” Vanity Fair. The New Yorker. The New York Times. The Washington Post. Time. Newsweek. In total, all the profiles, stage-managed and controlled by the Pentagon’s multimillion dollar public relations apparatus, built up an unrealistic and superhuman myth around the general that in the end did not do Petraeus or the public any favors. Ironically, despite all the media fellating, our esteemed and sex-obsessed press somehow missed the actual blow job.

Before I lay out the Petraeus counter-narrative — a narrative intentionally ignored by most of the Pentagon press and national security reporters, for reasons I’ll soon explain — let me say this about the man once known as King David, General Betray-Us, or P4, by his admirers, his enemies, and his fellow service members, respectively. He’s an impressive guy, a highly motivated individual, a world-class bullshit artist, a fitness addict, and a man who spent more time in shitty places over the past 10 years than almost any other American serving his or her country has. I’ve covered him for seven years now, and he’ll always have my respect and twisted admiration.

So it’s fair to say that P4 probably deserves something a little better than the public humiliation he’s about to endure. Sources who long feared him have already begun to leak salacious details; one told me this weekend that he took Broadwell along with him on a government-funded trip to Paris in July 2011. And questions about his role in the Benghazi debacle are also likely to deepen.

And Broadwell, too, is about to get slandered in a way no woman deserves. She’s the Pentagon’s Monica Lewinksy — and, despite Team Petraeus’ much advertised lip service to courage and integrity, it didn’t take long for his allies to swarm the press with anonymous quotes smearing the West Point graduate and married mother of two. That she wore “tight clothes,” as The Washington Post reported, or that she had her “claws in him.” In other words, how could Old Dave have resisted that slut’s charms?

Pretty shitty behavior, all around. As Petraeus ally and counterinsurgency scholar Dr. Andrew Exum might put it, stay classy!

But the warning signs about Petreaus’ core dishonesty have been around for years. Here’s a brief summary: We can start with the persistent questions critics have raised about his Bronze Star for Valor. Or, that in 2004, during the middle of a presidential election, Petraeus wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post supporting President Bush and saying that the Iraq policy was working. The policy wasn’t working, but Bush repaid the general’s political advocacy by giving him the top job in the war three years later.

There’s his war record in Iraq, starting when he headed up the Iraqi security force training program in 2004. He’s more or less skated on that, including all the weapons he lost, the insane corruption, and the fact that he essentially armed and trained what later became known as “Iraqi death squads.” On his final Iraq tour, during the so-called Surge, he pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment that we won the war.

He did it by papering over what The Surge actually was: We took the Shiites’ side in a civil war, armed them to the teeth, and suckered the Sunnis into thinking we’d help them out too. It was a brutal enterprise — over 800 Americans died during The Surge, while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives during a sectarian conflict that Petraeus’ policies fueled. Then he popped smoke and left the members of the Sunni Awakening to fend for themselves. A journalist friend told me a story of an Awakening member, exiled in Amman, whom Petraeus personally assured he would never abandon. The former insurgent had a picture of the Petraeus on his wall, but was a little hurt that the general no longer returned his calls.

MoveOn may have been ill-advised to attack the general as “Betray Us” in Washington, but there was little doubt that many in the Awakening felt betrayed.

Petraeus was so convincing on Baghdad that he manipulated President Obama into trying the same thing in Kabul. On Afghanistan, he first underhandedly pushed the White House into escalating the war in September 2009 (calling up columnists to “box” the president in) and waging a full-on leak campaign to undermine the White House policy process. Petraeus famously warned his staff that the White House was “fucking” with the wrong guy.

The doomed Afghanistan surge would come back to bite him in the ass, however. A year after getting the war he wanted, P4 got stuck having to fight it himself. After Petraeus frenemy General Stanley McChrystal got fired for trashing the White House in a story I published in Rolling Stone, the warrior-scholar had to deploy yet again.

The Afghan war was a loser, always was, and always would be — Petraeus made horrible deals with guys like Abdul Razzik and the other Afghan gangsters and killed a bunch of people who didn’t need to be killed. And none of it mattered, or made a dent in his reputation. This was the tour where Broadwell joined him at headquarters, and it’s not so shocking that he’d need to find some solace, somewhere, to get that daily horror show out of his mind.

(This past summer, there were more attacks in Afghanistan than in the summer before The Surge, a devastating statistic. I could keep going, but if you’re interested, check out The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan.)

How did Petraeus get away with all this for so long? Well, his first affair — and one that matters so much more than the fact that he was sleeping with a female or two — was with the media.

(For the record: Who really cares whom P4 is sleeping with? The idea that the FBI was investigating his sex life says more about the FBI and our absurd surveillance and national security state than it does about King David’s morality.)

Petraeus’ first biographer, former U.S. News and World Report reporter Linda Robinson, wrote a book about him, then went to CENTCOM to work for him. Yes — a so-called journalist published a book about him, then started getting a paycheck from him soon after. This went largely unremarked upon.

Another huge supporter was Tom Ricks, a former Washington Post journalist who found a second career as unofficial press agent for the general and his friends. Ricks is the ringleader of what I like to call “the media-military industrial complex,” setting the standard for its incestuous everyday corruption. He not only built Dave up, he facilitated the disastrous liaison between Broadwell and Petraeus. Ricks helped get Broadwell a literary agent, a six-figure book deal, and a publisher.

Broadwell was sold to publishers as much for her looks as what she was writing — she was an attractive package to push Petraeus and his counterinsurgency ideas. Little Brown editor Geoff Shandler once told me how “hot” he thought Broadwell was after she came in to meet him at his office, and indicated to me that Broadwell had made him somewhat aroused. Intellectual integrity all around, to be sure.

Ricks blurbed her in “All In,” and earlier had promoted her content on his blog — the oddly titled Travels With Paula, a headline he slapped to a story about the U.S. military’s total destruction of a small village in southern Afghanistan. Broadwell described the ultra-violent wipeout in favorable terms — and when she was confronted with an angry villager whose house had been destroyed, she wrote that the Afghan’s tears and anger were a “a fit of theatrics.”

This was the kind of bullshit Ricks and Broadwell had been pushing — and it not only wasn’t called bullshit, it was embraced as serious work. Ricks wasn’t the only offender, of course — Petraeus more or less had journalists from many major media outlets slurping from the Pentagon’s gravy train. The typical route was to have all the cash and favors funneled through a third party like the Center For A New American Security.

CNAS was a Petraeus-inspired operation from its inception in 2007, and it made its reputation promoting Petraeus’ counterinsurgency plans. No problem, right? Except that it put the journalists who were covering those same plans and policies on its payroll. For instance, New York Times Pentagon correspondent Thom Shanker took money and a position from CNAS and still covered the Pentagon; Robert Kaplan, David Cloud from the Los Angeles Times, and others produced a small library’s worth of hagiographies while sharing office space at CNAS with retired generals whom they’d regularly quote in their stories.

But Petraeus’ crash is more significant than the latest nonsense sex scandal. As President Obama says, our decade of war is coming to an end. The reputations of the men who were intimately involved in these years of foreign misadventure, where we tortured and supported torture, armed death squads, conducted nightly assassinations, killed innocents, and enabled corruption on an unbelievable scale, lie in tatters. McChrystal, Caldwell, and now Petraeus — the era of the celebrity general is over. Everyone is paying for their sins. (And before we should shed too many tears for the plight of King David and his men, remember, they’ll be taken care of with speaking fees and corporate board memberships, rewarded as instant millionaires by the same defense establishment they served so well.)

Before Dave fell for Paula, we fell for Dave. He tried to convince us that heroes aren’t human. They are human, like us, and sometimes worse.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mhastings/the-sins-of-general-david-petraeus

Jill Kelley, State Dept. liaison, is mystery woman Paula Broadwell harassed via email leading to FBI probe: AP

Another person who  knows Kelley and David Petraeus confirmed their friendship and said she saw him  often, according to The Associated Press

Sunday,  November 11, 2012, 3:04 PM

A senior U.S. military official says the author who had an affair with David Petraeus sent  harassing emails to a woman who was the State Department’s liaison to the  military’s Joint Special Operations Command.

The official says 37-year-old Jill Kelley in Tampa, Fla., received the  emails from Petraeus biographer Paula Broadwell that triggered an FBI  investigation.

The official was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on  the condition of anonymity.

Another person who knows Kelley and Petraeus confirmed their friendship and  said she saw him often.

Petraeus quit as CIA director last week after acknowledging an extramarital  relationship with a woman — later identified as Broadwell.

The FBI probe began several months ago with a complaint against Broadwell.  That investigation led to Broadwell’s email account, which uncovered the  relationship with Petraeus.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ap-source-target-emails-petraeus-paramour-state-department-military-liaison-article-1.1200299#ixzz2BwlfA3aT

David Petraeus: Did FBI Compromise National Security for Obama Re-election?

Broadwell was embedded with soldiers in Afghanistan for a year

By Geetha Pillai: Subscribe to Geetha’s RSS feed

November 11, 2012 5:59 AM GMT

David Petraeus resigns as CIA director. Image: Twitter

David Petraeus resigns as CIA director. Image: Twitter

The FBI withheld the information that former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) David Petraeus was having an extramarital affair and was exchanging emails that could have compromised national security until the re-election of President Barack Obama.

The FBI opened the investigation into Petraeus last spring, when he was stationed in Afghanistan. His name turned up in the course of an agency inquiry into a cyber complaint involving two women, one of them Paula Broadwell, with whom he was having an affair.

Broadwell is the author of Petraeus’s biography, All In: The Education of David Petraeus. She was given unique access to the CIA director and was embedded with the soldiers for a year in Afghanistan.

The FBI was looking into “an issue with two women and they stumbled across the affair with Petraeus,” government security sources told Reuters.

Broadwell was sending threatening emails to another woman who was close to Petraeus, whose relationship with him is yet to be revealed. The woman approached the FBI with cyber harassment claims, and the agency traced the emails to Broadwell.

Considering his access to military secrets and the fact that he was married, the FBI continued to intercept Petraeus’s private emails, many of them containing sexually explicit references, one even referring to sex under a desk.

The FBI investigation revealed that Petraeus actively pursued Broadwell even after she broke up with him after his appointment as CIA director on 6 September, 2011. The agency found out that he had sent thousands of emails to Broadwell.

However, the FBI withheld the investigation reports on Petraeus from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who oversees the CIA and other intelligence agencies, until election day.

Petraeus announced his resignation three days after the re-election of Barack Obama, acknowledging his extramarital affair.

“After being married for 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behaviour is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organisation such as ours,” said Petraeus.

Petraeus’s resignation comes at a time when the CIA is embroiled in controversies such as the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, including US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, and the recent Iranian attack on US drone.

Now the question being asked is why the FBI did not act earlier, even though it had evidence that Petraeus’s email accounts were vulnerable to hackers, thereby posing a risk to national security.

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/403727/20121111/david-petraeus-paula-broadwell-cia-director-sex.htm

An SAS hero has been jailed for possessing a “war trophy” pistol presented to him by the Iraqi Army for outstanding service

SAS war hero jailed after ‘betrayal’

Betrayal of an SAS war hero

Sgt Danny Nightingale with his wife Sally on their wedding day and, right, on duty Photo: WARREN SMITH
Sean Rayment

By , Defence Correspondent

9:00PM GMT 10 Nov 2012

Sgt Danny Nightingale, a special forces sniper who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was sentenced to 18 months in military detention by a court martial last week.

His sentence was described last night as the “betrayal of a war hero”, made worse because it was handed down in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday.

Sgt Nightingale had planned to fight the charge of illegally possessing the 9mm Glock.

But his lawyer said he pleaded guilty after being warned that he could otherwise face a five-year sentence.

The soldier had hoped for leniency given the circumstances. At the court martial, even the prosecution described him as a serviceman of exemplary character, who had served his country for 17 years, 11 in the special forces.

The court was told that he returned to Britain in a hurry after two friends were killed in Iraq, leaving his equipment — including the pistol — to be packed up by colleagues.

It accepted evidence from expert witnesses that he suffered severe memory loss due to a brain injury.

Judge Advocate Alistair McGrigor, presiding over the court martial, could have spared the soldier prison by passing a suspended sentence. Instead he handed down the custodial term.

Sgt Nightingale and his family chose to waive the anonymity usually given to members of the special forces.

His wife, Sally, said her husband’s sentence was a “disgrace”. She called him a “hero who had been betrayed”. She said she and the couple’s two daughters, aged two and five, faced losing their home after his Army pay was stopped.

The soldier’s former commanding officer and politicians have called for the sentence to be overturned.

Lt Col Richard Williams, who won a Military Cross in Afghanistan in 2001 and was Sgt Nightingale’s commanding officer in Iraq, said the sentence “clearly needed to be overturned immediately”.

He said: “His military career has been ruined and his wife and children face being evicted from their home — this is a total betrayal of a man who dedicated his life to the service of his country.”

Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP for Newark and a former infantry officer, said he planned to take up the case with the Defence Secretary. Simon McKay, Sgt Nightingale’s lawyer, said: “On Remembrance Sunday, when the nation remembers its war heroes, my client — one of their number — is in a prison cell.

“I consider the sentence to be excessive and the basis of the guilty plea unsafe. It is a gross miscarriage of justice and grounds of appeal are already being prepared.”

In 2007, Sgt Nightingale was serving in Iraq as a member of Task Force Black, a covert counter-terrorist unit that conducted operations under orders to capture and kill members of al-Qaeda.

He also helped train members of a secret counter-terrorist force called the Apostles. At the end of the training he was presented with the Glock, which he planned to donate to his regiment as a war trophy.

But in November 2007, two of Sgt Nightingale’s closest friends, Sgt John

Battersby and Cpl Lee Fitzsimmons, were killed in a helicopter crash. He accompanied both bodies back to Britain and helped arrange the funerals.

In Iraq, his equipment was packed by colleagues, one of whom placed the pistol inside a container that was sent first to the SAS regimental headquarters in Hereford, then to his home where it remained unopened until 2010.

In 2009, Sgt Nightingale, now a member of the SAS selection staff, took part in a 200-mile fund-raising trek in Brazil. He collapsed after 30 miles and fell into a coma for three days.

He recovered but his memory was severely damaged, according to two expert witnesses, including Prof Michael Kopleman of King’s College, London, an authority on memory loss.

In May, 2010, Sgt Nightingale was living in a house with another soldier close to the regiment’s headquarters when he was posted to Afghanistan at short notice.

During the tour, his housemate’s estranged wife claimed her husband had assaulted her and kept a stash of ammunition in the house. West Mercia Police raided the house and found the Glock, still in its container.

Sgt Nightingale’s court martial did not dispute that the pistol had been a gift. It accepted statements from expert witnesses, including Dr Susan Young, a forensic psychologist also from King’s College, London. She said that he probably had no recollection that he had the gun.

The court also accepted that Sgt Nightingale had suffered severe memory loss. But the judge did not believe that he had no recollection of being in possession of the weapon.

Petraeus Resigns Over Affair With Biographer

By

Posted Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, at 5:26 PM ET

138008285

David Petraeus testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Jan. 31
Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.

The woman with whom Gen. David Petraeus was having an affair is Paula Broadwell, the author of a recent hagiographic book about him, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.

Petraeus resigned as CIA director on Friday, citing the affair. In a letter to his staff, Petraeus wrote:

“Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA. After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.”

Sources tell me that President Obama, who has been getting along with Petraeus very well in the past couple years, agonized for 24 hours over the letter of resignation before accepting it. The move no doubt ends the career of the most famous, and perhaps most strategically astute, American military commander in decades.

Petraeus has attracted detractors—fellow officers and some senior White House aides—who regarded him as a “showboat” and excessively ambitious.

It had long been rumored that something was going on between Petraeus and Broadwell. Her book, co-written with Vernon Loeb, is widely regarded as a valentine to the general. When she was embedded with him in Afghanistan, they went on frequent 5-mile runs together. But Petraeus went on 5-mile runs with many reporters, and few people who knew him took the rumors seriously. In his personal life, he’s always been seen as a straight shooter, a square. Few could have imagined that his end would come as the result of a morals scandal.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2012/11/09/petraeus_resigns_over_affair_with_biographer.html

Added Video:

Jeff Glor talks to Paula Broadwell – author of “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus” – about the personal side of the man who was a four-star general who served over 37 years in the United States Army, oversaw all coalition forces in the Iraq War and who currently serves as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Ted Turner says it’s ‘good’ U.S. soldiers are committing suicide in large numbers because it proves humans aren’t programmed to kill

  • A total of 247 U.S. army personnel are  suspected to have taken their own lives between January and September
  • This compares to 222 combat deaths in  Afghanistan to October 22
  • CNN founder claims it’s  time to put war and conflict behind us and ‘start acting like civilized,  educated human beings’

By Helen Pow

PUBLISHED:15:48 EST, 25  October 2012| UPDATED:16:00 EST, 25 October 2012

CNN founder Ted Turner says he thinks it’s  ‘good’ that U.S. soldiers are committing suicide in large numbers because it  highlights how humans are ‘born to love and help each other, not to  kill.’

The 73-year-old media mogul made the  controversial remarks during an appearance on the TV station’s ‘Piers Morgan  Tonight’ last Friday, shortly after the army’s latest figures on troop suicides  were released.

The data shows that more army personnel have  taken their own lives this year than have died in combat in  Afghanistan.

SCROLL DOWN  FOR VIDEO

Army suicides: CNN founder Ted Turner, pictured, has claimed that military suicides are positive because they highlights how humans are 'born to love and help each other, not to kill'

Army suicides: CNN founder Ted Turner, pictured, has  claimed that military suicides are positive because they highlights how humans  are ‘born to love and help each other, not to kill’

Referring to the startling figures, Morgan  says to Turner: ‘That’s shocking isn’t it?’

But Turner doesn’t agree, and almost goes as  far as to say army suicides are ‘terrific.’

‘Well, what — no, I think it’s — I think  it’s good, because it’s so clear that we’re programmed and we’re born to love  and help each other, not to kill each other, to destroy each other,’ he says.  ‘That’s an aberration. That’s left over from hundreds of years ago. It’s time  for to us start acting enlightened.’

Earlier in the interview, Morgan asks  Turner’s view on foreign policy, and whether he believes America should continue  to be the world’s policeman.

‘I don’t think we should need one,’  Turner  replies. ‘I think we should use courts the way we do in civilian  life. It’s  time to put war and conflict behind us and move on, and start acting like  civilized, educated human beings.’

Controversial: The 73-year-old media mogul, pictured right, made the controversial remarks during an appearance on 'Piers Morgan Tonight' last Friday

 

Controversial: The 73-year-old media mogul, pictured  right, made the controversial remarks during an appearance on ‘Piers Morgan  Tonight’ last Friday

Even before not-yet-released data  from  October, the number of suicides among active and reserve army  personnel this  year has surpassed the number of combined military combat deaths from January to  October 22, according to CNS  News.

A total of 247 U.S. army personnel are  believed to have taken their own lives between January and September this year,  army data shows. This compares to 222  deaths from ‘hostile causes’ in Afghanistan.

The figures, collated by the Brookings  Institution, show an extra 40 troops were killed by ‘non-hostile causes’ while  on deployments in the country.

This means their deaths were not caused by  the Taliban, insurgency forces or Afghan forces.

The latest army statistics, released  last  Friday, show 15 active duty soldiers are suspected of killing  themselves last  month alone. The same number of potential suicides was  recorded in  August.

‘Every suicide in our ranks is a tragic loss  for the Army family, adversely  affecting the readiness of our Army,’ Lt. Gen.  Howard B. Bromberg,  deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel, said in a  Department  of Defense release.

Suicides: A total of 247 U.S. soldiers are suspected to have taken their own lives between January and September this year, army data shows. This compares to 222 deaths from 'hostile causes' in Afghanistan

 

Suicides: A total of 247 U.S. soldiers are suspected to  have taken their own lives between January and September this year, army data  shows

Combat killings: The high number of suicides compares to 222 deaths from 'hostile causes' in Afghanistan between January and October 22

 

Combat killings: The high number of suicides compares to  222 deaths from ‘hostile causes’ in Afghanistan between January and October  22

‘I am asking soldiers, family members,  Department of the Army civilians,  neighbors, and friends to look out for each  other and reach out and  embrace those who may be struggling,’ he  said.

‘Recognize the warning signs such as  substance abuse, relationship problems, and withdrawal from friends and  activities and use available resources to help yourself or others. Our actions  can save lives.’

For the year up to September, 146 potential  suicides were recorded among active-duty army personnel and an additional 101  possible suicides were recorded for troops not on active duty.

Marine Corps commandment James Amos  said the  problem wasn’t confined to the army and that all armed services were  experiencing a ‘tough year’ when it came to suicides, according to CNS.news.

‘Even with the attention of the leadership, I  think all the services this year are feeling it,’ Amos said.

‘I guess what I would tell everybody here is  there is, through no shortage of great effort and leadership on the part of all  the services to try  to abate this, but this year, I think, is going to be a  tough year for  all the services.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2223260/Ted-Turner-CNN-founder-says-good-U-S-soldiers-committing-suicide-large-numbers-proves-humans-arent-programmed-kill.html#ixzz2AMlGIMuq Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Afghan ‘Woman of Courage’ hailed by Michelle Obama for defending women’s rights has actually JAILED 100 wives for ‘adultery’

More than 50% of women jailed for adultery  in Afghanistan come from province prosecuted by Ms Bashir –  which holds just 20% of the population

By Eddie Wrenn

 

Last year she was hailed as one of the most  influential people in the world – a defender of women’s rights as Afghanistan’s  only female head prosecutor.

Ms Bashir has been lauded by both  Michelle  Obama and Hilary Clinton – and she was one of ten women to receive a ‘Women of  Courage’ Award in Washington last year.

But Maria Bashir’s reputation is now in doubt  after the Times revealed that Ms Bashir is also the most prolific prosecutor of  women for Afghanistan’s so-called ‘moral’ crimes, such as adultery.

While Ms Bashir campaigns against abuse  husbands, more than half of the 172 women jailed in Afghanistan for sex outside  of marriage (known as ‘zina’) have come from her province.

Defender or jailer? Maria Bashir, pictured with with First Lady Michelle Obama U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has jailed more than 100 women for adultery in Afghanistan 

Defender or jailer? Maria Bashir, pictured with with  First Lady Michelle Obama U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has jailed  more than 100 women for adultery in Afghanistan

The Herat province’s population stands at an  estimated 1.7million, and Afghanistan as a whole has a population of  35million.

Last week Ms Bashir, who became lead  prosecutor in 2006, and has prosecuted nearly a thord of the 78 women jailed for  murder in Afghanistan, was promoted to become Herat’s  attorney-general.

The Times said diplomats are ‘shocked’ by the  extraordinary tally of women imprisoned for adultery.

It further says that 101 out of 136 women  serving in Herat’s women jail are there for adultery, one of the moral crimes  which campaigners for women’s rights are trying to remove from  Afghanistan.

Two sides: Maria Bashir, attorney general of Herat comforting Arefa, a victim of domestic violence, in Herat, Afghanistan, last year 

Two sides: Maria Bashir, attorney general of Herat  comforting Arefa, a victim of domestic violence, in Herat, Afghanistan, last  year

When she received her award, the two  presidential wives said: ‘Ms Bashir has waged a determined campaign against  crime and corruption.

‘She stands out as a champion of judicial  transparency and women’s rights, and exemplifies the resilience of Afghan  women.’

When the Times contacted Ms Bashir, she said  she was unaware that her prosecution rate was so much higer than other  provinces, but blamed it on her province’s closeness to the border with  Iran.

She said: ‘If it is higher it’s because we  are bordered with Iran, which culturally influences Afghans.’

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The Stoner Arms Dealers: How Two American Kids Became Big-Time Weapons Traders

And how the Pentagon later turned on them

by: Guy Lawson

HIGH ON WAR: David Packouz (left) and Efraim Diveroli at a gun range near Miami (top). One of the illegal shipments of ammo they supplied to the Afghan army (bottom)

The e-mail confirmed it: everything was finally back on schedule after weeks of maddening, inexplicable delay. A 747 cargo plane had just lifted off from an airport in Hungary and was banking over the Black Sea toward Kyrgyzstan, some 3,000 miles to the east. After stopping to refuel there, the flight would carry on to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Aboard the plane were 80 pallets loaded with nearly 5 million rounds of ammunition for AK-47s, the Soviet-era assault rifle favored by the Afghan National Army.

 

Reading the e-mail back in Miami Beach, David Packouz breathed a sigh of relief. The shipment was part of a $300 million contract that Packouz and his partner, Efraim Diveroli, had won from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan. It was May 2007, and the war was going badly. After six years of fighting, Al Qaeda remained a menace, the Taliban were resurgent, and NATO casualties were rising sharply. For the Bush administration, the ammunition was part of a desperate, last-ditch push to turn the war around before the U.S. presidential election the following year. To Packouz and Diveroli, the shipment was part of a major arms deal that promised to make them seriously rich.

This article appears in the March 31, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available now on newsstands and will appear in the online archive March 18.

Reassured by the e-mail, Packouz got into his brand-new blue Audi A4 and headed home for the evening, windows open, the stereo blasting. At 25, he wasn’t exactly used to the pressures of being an international arms dealer. Only months earlier, he had been making his living as a massage therapist; his studies at the Educating Hands School of Massage had not included classes in military contracting or geopolitical brinkmanship. But Packouz hadn’t been able to resist the temptation when Diveroli, his 21-year-old friend from high school, had offered to cut him in on his burgeoning arms business. Working with nothing but an Internet connection, a couple of cellphones and a steady supply of weed, the two friends — one with a few college credits, the other a high school dropout — had beaten out Fortune 500 giants like General Dynamics to score the huge arms contract. With a single deal, two stoners from Miami Beach had turned themselves into the least likely merchants of death in history.

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Arriving home at the Flamingo, his sleek condo with views of the bay, Packouz packed the cone of his Volcano, a smokeless electronic bong. As the balloon inflated with vapors from the high-grade weed, he took a deep toke and felt the pressures of the day drift away into a crisp, clean high.

Dinner was at Sushi Samba, a hipster Asian-Latino fusion joint. Packouz was in excellent spirits. He couldn’t believe that he and Diveroli were actually pulling it off: Planes from all over Eastern Europe were now flying into Kabul, laden with millions of dollars worth of grenades and mortars and surface-to-air missiles. But as Packouz’s miso-marinated Chilean sea bass arrived, his cellphone rang. It was the freight forwarder he had employed to make sure the ammunition made it from Hungary to Kabul. The man sounded panicked.

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“We’ve got a problem,” he told Packouz, shouting to be heard over the restaurant’s thumping music. “The plane has been seized on the runway in Kyrgyzstan.”

The arms shipment, it appeared, was being used as a bargaining chip in a high-stakes standoff between George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin. The Russian president didn’t like NATO expanding into Kyrgyzstan, and the Kyrgyzs wanted the U.S. government to pay more rent to use their airport as a crucial supply line for the war in Afghanistan. Putin’s allies in the Kyrgyz KGB, it seemed, were holding the plane hostage — and Packouz was going to be charged a $300,000 fine for every day it sat on the runway. Word of the seizure quickly reached Washington, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates himself was soon on his way to Kyrgyzstan to defuse the mounting tensions.

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Packouz was baffled, stoned and way out of his league. “It was surreal,” he recalls. “Here I was dealing with matters of international security, and I was half-baked. I didn’t know anything about the situation in that part of the world. But I was a central player in the Afghan war — and if our delivery didn’t make it to Kabul, the entire strategy of building up the Afghanistan army was going to fail. It was totally killing my buzz. There were all these shadowy forces, and I didn’t know what their motives were. But I had to get my shit together and put my best arms-dealer face on.”

Sitting in the restaurant, Packouz tried to clear his head, cupping a hand over his cellphone to shut out the noise. “Tell the Kyrgyz KGB that ammo needs to get to Afghanistan!” he shouted into the phone. “This contract is part of a vital mission in the global war on terrorism. Tell them that if they fuck with us, they are fucking with the government of the United States of America!”

Packouz and Diveroli had picked the perfect moment to get into the arms business. To fight simultaneous wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush administration had decided to outsource virtually every facet of America’s military operations, from building and staffing Army bases to hiring mercenaries to provide security for diplomats abroad. After Bush took office, private military contracts soared from $145 billion in 2001 to $390 billion in 2008. Federal contracting rules were routinely ignored or skirted, and military-industrial giants like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin cashed in as war profiteering went from war crime to business model. Why shouldn’t a couple of inexperienced newcomers like Packouz and Diveroli get in on the action? After all, the two friends were after the same thing as everyone else in the arms business — lots and lots and lots of money.

“I was going to make millions,” Packouz says. “I didn’t plan on being an arms dealer forever — I was going to use the money to start a music career. I had never even owned a gun. But it was thrilling and fascinating to be in a business that decided the fate of nations. Nobody else our age was dealing weapons on an international level.”

Packouz and Diveroli met at Beth Israel Congregation, the largest Orthodox synagogue in Miami Beach. Packouz was older by four years, a skinny kid who wore a yarmulke and left his white dress shirts untucked. Diveroli was the class clown, an overweight kid with a big mouth and no sense of fear. After school, the pair would hang out at the beach with their friends, smoking weed, playing guitar, sneaking in to swim in the pools at five-star hotels. When Packouz graduated, his parents were so concerned about his heavy pot use that they sent him to a school in Israel that specialized in handling kids with drug problems. It turned out to be a great place to get high. “I took acid by the Dead Sea,” Packouz says. “I had a transcendental experience.”

Returning home, Packouz drifted through two semesters at the University of Florida. Short of cash, he studied massage because it seemed like a better way to make money than flipping burgers. Nights, he sat around with his high school buddies getting high and dreaming of becoming a pop star. He wrote angsty rock ballads with titles like “Eternal Moment” — but it was hard to get a break in the music industry. With a shaved head and intense blue eyes, Packouz was plenty smart and plenty ambitious, in his slacker fashion, but he had no idea what to do with his life.

Efraim Diveroli, by contrast, knew exactly what he wanted to be: an arms dealer. It was the family business. His father brokered Kevlar jackets and other weapons-related paraphernalia to local police forces, and his uncle B.K. sold Glocks, Colts and Sig Sauers to law enforcement. Kicked out of school in the ninth grade, Diveroli was sent to Los Angeles to work for his uncle. As an apprentice arms dealer, he proved to be a quick study. By the time he was 16, he was traveling the country selling weapons. He loved guns with a passion — selling them, shooting them, talking about them — and he loved the arms industry’s intrigue and ruthless amorality. At 18, after a dispute with his uncle over money, Diveroli returned to Miami to set up his own operation, taking over a shell company his father had incorporated called AEY Inc.

His business plan was simple but brilliant. Most companies grow by attracting more customers. Diveroli realized he could succeed by selling to one customer: the U.S. military. No government agency buys and sells more stuff than the Defense Department — everything from F-16s to paper clips and front-end loaders. By law, every Pentagon purchase order is required to be open to public bidding. And under the Bush administration, small businesses like AEY were guaranteed a share of the arms deals. Diveroli didn’t have to actually make any of the products to bid on the contracts. He could just broker the deals, finding the cheapest prices and underbidding the competition. All he had to do was win even a minuscule fraction of the billions the Pentagon spends on arms every year and he would be a millionaire. But Diveroli wanted more than that: His ambition was to be the biggest arms dealer in the world — a young Adnan Khashoggi, a teenage Victor Bout.

To get into the game, Diveroli knew he would have to deal with some of the world’s shadiest operators — the war criminals, soldiers of fortune, crooked diplomats and small-time thugs who keep militaries and mercenaries loaded with arms. The vast aftermarket in arms had grown exponentially after the end of the Cold War. For decades, weapons had been stockpiled in warehouses throughout the Balkans and Eastern Europe for the threat of war against the West, but now arms dealers were selling them off to the highest bidder. The Pentagon needed access to this new aftermarket to arm the militias it was creating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The trouble was, it couldn’t go into such a murky underworld on its own. It needed proxies to do its dirty work — companies like AEY. The result was a new era of lawlessness. According to a report by Amnesty International, “Tens of millions of rounds of ammunition from the Balkans were reportedly shipped — clandestinely and without public oversight — to Iraq by a chain of private brokers and transport contractors under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Defense.”

This was the “gray market” that Diveroli wanted to penetrate. Still a teenager, he rented a room in a house owned by a Hispanic family in Miami and went to work on his laptop. The government website where contracts are posted is fbo.gov, known as “FedBizOpps.” Diveroli soon became adept at the arcane lingo of federal contracts. His competition was mostly big corporations like Northrop Grumman, Lockheed and BAE Systems. Those companies had entire departments dedicated to selling to the Pentagon. But Diveroli had his own advantages: low overhead, an appetite for risk and all-devouring ambition.

In the beginning, Diveroli specialized in bidding on smaller contracts for items like helmets and ammunition for U.S. Special Forces. The deals were tiny, relatively speaking, but they gave AEY a history of “past performance” — the kind of track record the Pentagon requires of companies that want to bid on large defense contracts. Diveroli got financing from a Mormon named Ralph Merrill, a machine-gun manufacturer from Utah who had worked for his father. Before long, Diveroli was winning Pentagon contracts.

Like all the kids in their pot-smoking circle, Packouz was aware that Diveroli had become an arms dealer. Diveroli loved to brag about how rich he was, and rumors circulated among the stoners about the vast sums he was making, at least compared with their crappy part-time jobs. One evening, Diveroli picked Packouz up in his Mercedes, and the two headed to a party at a local rabbi’s house, lured by the promise of free booze and pretty girls. Diveroli was excited about a deal he had just completed, a $15 million contract to sell old Russian-manufactured rifles to the Pentagon to supply the Iraqi army. He regaled Packouz with the tale of how he had won the contract, how much money he was making and how much more there was to be made.

“Dude, I’ve got so much work I need a partner,” Diveroli said. “It’s a great business, but I need a guy to come on board and make money with me.”

Packouz was intrigued. He was doing some online business himself, buying sheets from textile companies in Pakistan and reselling them to distributors that supplied nursing homes in Miami. The sums he made were tiny — a thousand or two at a time — but the experience made him hungry for more.

“How much money are you making, dude?” Packouz asked.

“Serious money,” Diveroli said.

“How much?”

“This is confidential information,” Diveroli said.

“Dude, if you had to leave the country tomorrow, how much would you be able to take?”

“In cash?”

“Cold, hard cash.”

Diveroli pulled the car over and turned to look at Packouz. “Dude, I’m going to tell you,” he said. “But only to inspire you. Not because I’m bragging.” Diveroli paused, as if he were about to disclose his most precious secret. “I have $1.8 million in cash.”

Packouz stared in disbelief. He had expected Diveroli to say something like $100,000, maybe a little more. But nearly $2 million?

“Dude,” was all Packouz said.

Packouz started working with Diveroli in November 2005. His title was account executive. He would be paid entirely in commission. The pair operated out of a one-bedroom apartment Diveroli had by then rented in Miami Beach, sitting opposite each other at a desk in the living room, surrounded by stacks of federal contracts and a mountain of pot. They quickly fell into a daily routine: wake up, get baked, start wheeling and dealing.

Packouz was about to get a rare education. He watched as Diveroli won a State Department contract to supply high-grade FN Herstal machine guns to the Colombian army. It was a lucrative deal, but Diveroli wasn’t satisfied — he always wanted more. So he persuaded the State Department to allow him to substitute Korean-made knockoffs instead of the high-end Herstals — a swap that instantly doubled his earnings. Diveroli did the same with a large helmet order for the Iraqi army, pushing the Pentagon to accept poorer-quality Chinese-made helmets once he had won the contract. After all, it wasn’t like the military was buying weapons and helmets for American soldiers. The hapless end-users were foreigners, and who was going to go the extra mile for them?

The Pentagon’s buyers were soldiers with little or no business experience, and Diveroli knew how to win them over with a mixture of charm, patriotism and a keen sense of how to play to the military culture; he could yes sir and no sir with the best of them. To get the inside dirt on a deal, he would call the official in charge of the contract and pretend to be a colonel or even a general. “He would be toasted, but you would never know it,” says Packouz. “When he was trying to get a deal, he was totally convincing. But if he was about to lose a deal, his voice would start shaking. He would say that he was running a very small business, even though he had millions in the bank. He said that if the deal fell through he was going to be ruined. He was going to lose his house. His wife and kids were going to go hungry. He would literally cry. I didn’t know if it was psychosis or acting, but he absolutely believed what he was saying.”

Above all, Diveroli cared about the bottom line. “Efraim was a Republican because they started more wars,” Packouz says. “When the United States invaded Iraq, he was thrilled. He said to me, ‘Do I think George Bush did the right thing for the country by invading Iraq? No. But am I happy about it? Absofuckinglutely.’ He hoped we would invade more countries because it was good for business.”

That spring, when mass protests broke out in Nepal, Diveroli frantically tried to put together a cache of arms that could be sold to the Nepalese king to put down the rebellion — heavy weapons, attack helicopters, ammo. “Efraim called it the Save the King Project, but he didn’t give a shit about the king,” Packouz says. “Money was all he talked about, literally — no sports or politics. He would do anything to make money.”

To master the art of federal contracts, Packouz studied the solicitations posted on fbo.gov. The contracts often ran to 30 or 40 pages, each filled with fine print and legalese. As Diveroli’s apprentice, Packouz saw that his friend never read a book or a magazine, never went to the movies — all he did was pore over government documents, looking for an angle, a way in. Diveroli called it squeezing into a deal — putting himself between the supplier and the government by shaving a few pennies off each unit and reselling them at a markup that undercut his competitors. Playing the part of an arms dealer, he loved to deliver dramatic one-liners, speaking as if he were the star of a Hollywood blockbuster. “I don’t care if I have the smallest dick in the room,” he would say, “as long as I have the fattest wallet.” Or: “If you see a crack in the door, you’ve got to kick the fucker open.” Or: “Once a gun runner, always a gun runner.”

“Efraim’s self-image was as the modern merchant of death,” says Packouz. “He was still just a kid, but he didn’t see himself that way. He would go toe-to-toe with high-ranking military officers, Eastern European mobsters, executives of Fortune 500 companies. He didn’t give a fuck. He would take them on and win, and then give them the finger. I was following in his footsteps. He told me I was going to be a millionaire within three years — he guaranteed it.”

At first, Packouz struggled to land his own deals. Bidding on contracts on fbo.gov was an art; closing a deal was a science. At one point, he spent weeks obsessing over an $8 million contract to supply SUVs to the State Department in Pakistan, only to lose the bid. But he finally won a contract to supply 50,000 gallons of propane to an Air Force base in Wyoming, netting a profit of $8,000. “There were a lot of suppliers who didn’t know how to work FedBizOpps as well as we did,” he says. “You had to read the solicitations religiously.”

Once a week or so, the pair would hit the clubs of South Beach to let off steam. Karaoke in a basement bar called the Studio was a favorite. Packouz took his performances seriously, choosing soulful music like U2’s “With or Without You” or Pearl Jam’s “Black,” while Diveroli threw himself into power ballads and country anthems, tearing off his shirt and pumping his fists to the music. Between songs, the two friends would take hits of the cocaine that Diveroli kept in a small plastic bullet with a tiny valve on the top for easy access. Packouz was shy around girls, but Diveroli cut right to the chase, often hitting on women right in front of their boyfriends.

All the partying wasn’t exactly conducive to running a small business, especially one as complicated and perilous as arms dealing. As AEY grew, it defaulted on at least seven contracts, in one case failing to deliver a shipment of 10,000 Beretta pistols for the Iraqi army. Diveroli’s aunt — a strong-willed and outspoken woman who fought constantly with her nephew — joined the two friends to provide administrative support. She didn’t approve of their drug use, and she talked openly about them on the phone, as if they weren’t present.

“Mark my words,” she told Diveroli’s mother repeatedly, “your son is going to crash and burn.”

“Shut up!” Diveroli would shout, the coldblooded arms dealer giving way to the pissed-off teenager. “You don’t know what you’re talking about! I made millions last year!”

“Crash and burn,” the aunt would say. “Mark my words — crash and burn.”

In June, seven months after Packouz started at AEY, he and Diveroli traveled to Paris for Eurosatory, one of the world’s largest arms trade shows. Miles of booths inside the Paris Nord Villepinte exhibition center were filled with arms manufacturers hawking the latest instruments of death — tanks, robots, unmanned drones — and serving up champagne and caviar to some of the most powerful political and military officials on the planet. Packouz and Diveroli were by far the youngest in attendance, but they tried to look the part, wearing dress pants, crisp shirts and sales-rep ties. “Wait until I am really in the big time,” Diveroli boasted. “I will own this fucking show.”

At a booth displaying a new robotic reconnaissance device, Diveroli and Packouz met with Heinrich Thomet, a Swiss arms dealer who served as a crucial go-between for AEY. Tall and suave, with movie-star looks and an impeccable sense of fashion, Thomet had blond hair, light-blue eyes and an eerily calm demeanor. He spoke fluent English with a slight German accent, adding “OK” to the beginning and end of every sentence (“OK, so the price on the AKs is firm, OK?”). He seemed to have connections everywhere — Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary. Serving as a broker, Thomet had created an array of shell companies and offshore accounts to shield arms transactions from official scrutiny. He had used his contacts in Albania to get Diveroli a good price on Chinese-made ammunition for U.S. Special Forces training in Germany — a deal that was technically illegal, given the U.S. embargo against Chinese arms imposed after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

“Thomet could get body armor, machine guns, anti-aircraft rockets — anything,” Packouz recalls. “He was one of the best middlemen in the business, a real-life Lord of War.”

Like Diveroli, Thomet had been in the business since he was a teenager, and he recognized that the two young upstarts could be useful to him. Thomet was singled out by Amnesty International for smuggling arms out of Zimbabwe in violation of U.S. sanctions. He was also under investigation by U.S. law enforcement for shipping weapons from Serbia to Iraq, and he was placed on a “watch list” by the State Department. Given the obstacles to selling directly in the United States, Thomet wanted to use AEY as a front, providing him an easy conduit to the lucrative contracts being handed out by the Pentagon.

With Thomet on their side, Diveroli and Packouz soon got the break they were looking for. On July 28th, 2006, the Army Sustainment Command in Rock Island, Illinois, posted a 44-page document titled “A Solicitation for Nonstandard Ammunition.” It looked like any other government form on fbo.gov, with blank spaces for names and telephone numbers and hundreds of squares to be filled in. But the document actually represented a semi-covert operation by the Bush administration to prop up the Afghan National Army. Rather than face a public debate over the war in Afghanistan, which was going very badly indeed, the Pentagon issued what is known as a “pseudo case” — a solicitation that permitted it to allocate defense funds without the approval of Congress. The pseudo case wasn’t secret, precisely, but the only place it was publicized was on fbo.gov. No press release was issued, and there was no public debate. The money was only available for two years, so it had to be spent quickly. And unlike most federal contracts, there was no dollar limit posted; companies vying for the deal could bid whatever they wanted.

Based on the numbers, it looked like it was going to be a lot of money. The Army wanted to buy a dizzying array of weapons — ammunition for AK-47 assault rifles and SVD Dragunov sniper rifles, GP 30 grenades, 82 mm Russian mortars, S-KO aviation rockets. The quantities were enormous — enough ammo to literally create an army — and the entire contract would go to a single bidder. “One firm fixed-price award, on an all-or-none basis, will be made as a result of this solicitation,” the tender offer said.

The solicitation was only up for a matter of minutes before Diveroli spotted it, reading the terms with increasing excitement. He immediately called Packouz, who was driving along the interstate.

“I’ve found the perfect contract for us,” Diveroli said. “It’s enormous — far, far bigger than anything we’ve done before. But it’s right up our alley.”

The pair met at Diveroli’s apartment to smoke a joint and discuss strategy. Supplying the contract would mean buying up hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ammunition for the kind of Eastern Bloc weapons that the Afghans used. Because such weapons were traded in the gray market — a world populated by illegal arms dealers, gun runners and warlords — the Pentagon couldn’t go out and buy the ammo itself without causing a public relations disaster. Whoever won the contract to arm the Afghans would essentially be serving as an official front operation, laundering shady arms for the Pentagon.

Normally, a small-time outfit like AEY wouldn’t have a shot at such a major defense contract. But Diveroli and Packouz had three advantages. First, the Bush administration had started its small-business initiative at the Pentagon, mandating that a certain percentage of defense contracts go to firms like AEY. Second, the fledgling arms dealers specialized in precisely the sort of Cold War munitions the Pentagon was looking for: They had the “past performance” required by the contract, and they could fulfill the order using the same supply lines Diveroli had developed through Thomet. Third, the only requirement in the contract was that the ammunition be “serviceable without qualification.” As Diveroli and Packouz interpreted it, that meant the Pentagon didn’t care if they supplied “shit ammo,” as long as it “went bang and went out of the barrel.”

For the two friends, it was a chance to enter a world usually reserved for multinational defense contractors with armies of well-connected lobbyists. “I knew it was a long shot,” recalls Packouz. “But it seemed like we might be able to actually compete with the big boys. I thought we actually had a chance. If we worked hard. If we got lucky.”

Bidding on defense contracts is a speculative business — laborious, time-consuming, with no prize for second place. As they passed a joint back and forth, Diveroli decided it was time for Packouz to step up and take on a larger role.

“I don’t really have time to source all these things,” he told Packouz. “But I’ve got good contacts for you to start with. I want you to get on the Internet and get a price from everyone and his mother. Any new sources you bring to the table, I’ll give you 25 percent of the profit.”

This was Packouz’s big chance. That night, he went online and searched defense databases for every arms manufacturer in Eastern Europe he could find — Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, any place that might deal in Soviet-era weapons. He e-mailed or faxed or called them all. The phone connection was often bad, and Packouz had to shout to be heard. If the person who answered didn’t speak English, he would say “English! English! English!” and then spend minutes on hold while they tracked down the one guy in the outfit who spoke a few words. “Da, da,” they would tell Packouz. “You buy, you buy.” When he managed to make himself understood, he told the manufacturers that the ammunition had to “work.” It also had to “look good,” and not be in rusty boxes or exposed to the elements.

For six weeks, Packouz worked through the night, sleeping on Diveroli’s couch and surviving on weed and adrenaline. He located stockpiles of ammunition in Eastern Europe at good prices. At the same time, Heinrich Thomet sourced a massive amount of ammunition through his Albanian connections. As the date for the final bid neared, Diveroli agonized. He paced day and night, a cloud of smoke over his head as he smoked joint after joint, muttering, worrying, cursing.

“Efraim was conflicted about whether to put a nine percent or 10 percent profit margin on top of our prices,” Packouz recalls. “The difference was more than $3 million in cash, which was huge — but with either margin, profits were going to be more than $30 million. He figured everyone else was going to take 10 percent, but what if another bidder had the same idea as him and put in nine percent? So maybe he should go with eight percent. But then we might be leaving money on the table — God forbid!”

Finally, at the last possible moment, Diveroli went for nine percent. He scribbled a number on the form: $298,000,000. It was an educated guess, one he prayed wouldn’t be undercut by the big defense contractors. There were just 10 minutes left before the application deadline. The two friends jumped in Diveroli’s car and sped through the quiet residential streets of Miami Beach, making it to the post office with only seconds to go.

The Pentagon can be a slow-moving bureaucracy, a place where paperwork goes to die. But because the Afghanistan solicitation was a “pseudo case,” it had been designed to move swiftly. On the evening of January 26th, 2007, Packouz was parking his beat-up old Mazda Protege when Diveroli called.

“I have good news and bad news,” Diveroli said.

“What’s the bad news?” Packouz asked.

“Our first order is only for $600,000.”

“So we won the contract?” Packouz asked in disbelief.

“Fuck yeah!” said Diveroli.

The two friends, still in their early twenties, were now responsible for one of the central elements of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Over multiple bottles of Cristal at an upscale Italian restaurant, the pair toasted their amazing good fortune. Throughout the meal they passed Diveroli’s cocaine bullet back and forth under the table, using napkins to pretend to blow their noses.

“You and me, buddy,” Diveroli said. “You and me are going to take over this industry. I see AEY as a $10 billion company in a few years. These fat cats in their boardrooms worrying about the stock prices of their companies have no idea what is about to hit them.”

“General Dynamics isn’t going to be too happy right now,” Packouz agreed.

Despite the celebratory air, they both knew that their work had just begun. They had already managed to clear three different government audits, hiring an accountant to establish the kind of basic bookkeeping systems that any cafe or corner store would have. Now, a few weeks after winning the contract, AEY was suddenly summoned to a meeting with the purchasing officers at Rock Island.

Diveroli asked Ralph Merrill, the Mormon gun manufacturer from Utah, to come along. An experienced businessman in his sixties, Merrill had provided the financial backing needed to land the contract, pledging his interest in a piece of property in Utah. Diveroli had also shown auditors his personal bank balance, by then $5.4 million.

The meeting with Army officials proved to be a formality. Diveroli had the contracting jargon down, and he sailed through the technical aspects of the transaction with confidence: supply sources, end-user certificates, AEY’s experience. No one ever asked his age. “We were supremely confident,” says Packouz. “I just think it never occurred to the Army people that they were dealing with a couple of dudes in their early twenties.”

In reality, the Pentagon had good reason to disqualify AEY from even vying for the contract. The company and Diveroli had both been placed on the State Department “watch list” for importing illegal firearms. But the Pentagon failed to check the list. It also ignored the fact that AEY had defaulted on prior contracts. Initially rated as “unsatisfactory” by the contracting office, AEY was upgraded to “good” and then “excellent.”

There was only one explanation for the meteoric rise: Diveroli had radically underbid the competition. In private conversations, the Army’s contracting officers let AEY know that its bid was at least $50 million less than its nearest rival. Diveroli’s anxiety that his bid of nearly $300 million would be too high had failed to consider the corpulent markups employed by corporate America when it deals with the Pentagon. For once, at least, taxpayers were getting a good deal on a defense contract.

The first Task Order that AEY received on the deal was for $600,000 worth of grenades and ammunition — a test, Diveroli surmised, to make sure they could deliver as promised. Make a mistake, no matter the reason, and the Pentagon might yank the entire $298 million contract.

After their celebratory dinner the night they received the contract, the two friends headed for Diveroli’s brand-new Audi. As Diveroli arranged a line of coke on the dashboard, he warned Packouz not to make any mistakes with the grenades.

“You’ve got the bitch’s panties off,” Diveroli said, adopting his best movie-star swagger. “But you haven’t fucked her yet.”

Diveroli and Packouz needn’t have worried. They had barely gotten started on the order for grenades when the second Task Order arrived. This time, it was for more than $49 million in ammunition — including 100 million rounds of AK ammo and more than a million grenades for rocket launchers. There was no question now. The Pentagon was ecstatic to award the contract to a tiny company like AEY, which helped fulfill the quota set by Bush’s small-business initiative.

Packouz calculated that even with the tight margins, he stood to make as much as $6 million on the contract. But he wasn’t so sure that AEY was going to be able to deliver. Diveroli had already hit the road, traveling to the Ukraine, Montenegro and the Czech Republic in search of suppliers. So Packouz would have to tend to most of the Afghanistan contract by himself — a job that any conventional defense contractor would have assigned to dozens of full-time, experienced employees.

In February 2007, saddled with a gargantuan task, Packouz went by himself to the annual International Defense Exhibition in Abu Dhabi to look for suppliers. “It was bizarre,” he says. “I was just a kid, but I was probably the single biggest private arms dealer on the planet. It was like Efraim had put me into the movie he was starring in.” To look the part of an international arms dealer, Packouz carried a silver aluminum briefcase and wore wraparound shades. He also had business cards printed up with an impressive new title, considering he was part of a two-man operation: vice president.

In Abu Dhabi, Packouz hoped to find a single supplier big enough to meet most of AEY’s demands. The obvious candidate was Rosoboron Export, the official dealer for all Russian arms. The company had inherited the Soviet Union’s global arms-exporting empire; now, as part of Vladimir Putin’s tightly held network of oligarchic corporations, Rosoboron sold more than 90 percent of Russia’s weapons. The firm was so big that Packouz could have just given them the list of ammunition he needed and they could have supplied the entire contract, a one-stop weapons shop.

But there was a catch, the kind of perversity common in the world of arms dealing: Rosoboron had been banned by the State Department for selling nuclear equipment to Iran. The U.S. government wanted Russian ammo, just not from the Russians. AEY couldn’t do business with the firm — at least, not legally. But for gun runners, this kind of legal hurdle was just that — a hurdle to be jumped.

Packouz went to the main Russian pavilion every day to try to get an appointment with the deputy director of Rosoboron. The giant exhibit was like a souk for arms dealers, with scores of Russian generals in full-dress uniform meeting with businessmen and sheiks. Finally, on the last day, Packouz was given an appointment. The deputy director looked like he was ex-KGB — big and fat, in his sixties, with thick square glasses. As Packouz spoke, the man kept surveying the pavilion out of the corner of his eye, as if he were checking to see if he was being watched. Packouz showed him the list of munitions he needed, along with the quantities. The director raised his eyebrows, impressed by the scale of the operation.

“We have very good interest in this business,” he said in a thick Russian accent. “You know we are only company who can provide everything.”

“I’m aware of that,” Packouz said. “That’s why we want to do business with you.”

“But as you know, there is problem. State Department has blacklist us. I don’t understand your government. One month is OK to do business, next month is not OK. This is very not fair. Very political. They just want leverage in dealing with Kremlin.”

“I know we can’t do business with you directly,” Packouz said. Then he hinted that there was a way to get around the blacklist. “If you can help us do business with another Russian company, then we can buy from them.”

“Let me talk to my people,” the Russian said, taking one of Packouz’s newly printed business cards.

It was the last Packouz ever heard from the Russian. Several weeks later, as he was arranging supply routes for the deal, Packouz was informed that AEY would not be given overflight permission for Turkmenistan, a former Soviet satellite that had to be crossed to reach Afghanistan. “It was clear that Putin was fucking with us directly,” Packouz says. “If the Russians made life difficult for us, they would get taken off the American blacklist, so they could get our business for themselves.”

Packouz managed to obtain the overflight permission through a Ukrainian airline — but the episode was an ominous reminder of how little he understood about the business he was in. “There was no way to really know why the heads of state were doing things, especially when it came to something like invading Iraq,” he says. “It was such a deep game, we didn’t know what was really happening.”

With the flights to Kabul arranged, Packouz hit the phones looking for more ammunition. The cheaper the better: The less the ammo cost, the more he and Diveroli would pocket for themselves. They didn’t need quality; antique shells, second-rate mortar rounds — all of it was fine, as long as it worked. “Please be advised there is no age restriction for this contract!!!” AEY advised one potential supplier in an e-mail. “ANY age ammunition is acceptable.”

Of course, if the Pentagon really cared about the Afghan National Army, it could have supplied them with more expensive, and reliable, state-of-the-art weapons. The Bush administration’s ambivalence about Afghanistan had manifested itself in the terms of the contract: The soldiers of Kabul and Kandahar would not be abandoned in the field, but nor would they be given the tools to succeed.

Packouz sat on the couch in Diveroli’s apartment, bong and lighter handy, and called U.S. Embassies in the “stans” — the former Soviet satellites — and asked to speak to the defense attache. Deepening his voice and adopting a clipped military inflection, Packouz chatted them up, made them laugh, asked about how things were in Kazakhstan, described how sunny it was in Miami. Whenever possible, he threw in military lingo designed to appeal to the officers: He was working on an essential contract in the War on Terror, he explained, and the United States military was counting on AEY to complete the mission. “I said it was part of the vital process of nation building in the central front of the War on Terror,” Packouz recalls. “Then I would tell them the specifics of what I was after — mortar rounds, the size of ammo, the amount. They were all eager to help.”

Every day, Packouz spoke with military officials, sending volleys of e-mails to Kabul and Kyrgyzstan and the Army depot in Rock Island. The contracting officers he dealt with told him that there was a secret agenda involved in the deal. The Pentagon, they said, was worried that a Democrat would be elected president in 2008 and cut the funding for the war — or worse, pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan entirely.

“They said Bush and Rumsfeld were trying to arm Afghanistan with enough ammo to last them the next few decades,” Packouz recalls. “It made sense to me, but I didn’t really care. My main motivator was making money, just like it was for General Dynamics. Nobody goes into the arms business for altruistic purposes.”

It didn’t take long for AEY to strike cut-rate deals that vastly improved its profit margin. The nine percent planned for in the original bid was soon pushing toward 25 percent — enough to provide Packouz and Diveroli with nearly $85 million in profits. But even such a jaw-dropping sum didn’t satisfy Diveroli. He scoured FedBizOpps for even more contracts and landed a private deal to import Lithuanian ammo, determined to turn AEY into a multibillion-dollar company.

To cope with the increased business, AEY leased space in a larger and more expensive office building in Miami Beach. The company hired an office manager and two young secretaries they found on Craigslist. Diveroli brought in two more friends from the synagogue, including a guy fluent in Russian, to help fulfill the contracts. “Things were rolling along,” Packouz recalls. “We were delivering on a consistent basis. We had suppliers in Hungary and Bulgaria and other countries. I had finally arranged all the overflight permits. We were cash positive.”

Packouz had yet to be paid a cent, but he was convinced he was about to be seriously rich. Anticipating the big payday, he ditched his beater Mazda for a brand-new Audi A4. He moved from his tiny efficiency apartment to a nice one-bedroom overlooking the pool at the Flamingo in fashionable South Beach. Diveroli soon followed, taking a two-bedroom in the central tower. It was convenient for both — their drug dealer, Raoul, lived in the complex.

“The Flamingo was a constant party,” Packouz says. “The marketing slogan for the building was ‘South Beach revolves around us,’ and it was true. There was drinking, dancing, people making out in the Jacuzzi — sometimes more than just making out. Outside my balcony there was always at least a few women sunbathing topless. People at parties would ask us what we did for a living. The girls were models or cosmetologists. The guys were stockbrokers and lawyers. We would say we were international arms dealers. ‘You know the war in Afghanistan?’ we would say. ‘All the bullets are coming from us.’ It was heaven. It was wild. We felt like we were on top of the world.”

In the evenings, Packouz and Diveroli would get high and go to the American Range and Gun Shop — the only range near Miami that would let them fire off the Uzis and MP5s that Diveroli was licensed to own. “When we let go with our machine guns, all the other shooters would stop and look at us like, ‘What the fuck was that?’ Everyone else had pistols going pop pop. We loved it. Shooting an automatic machine gun feels powerful.”

The biggest piece of the Afghan contract, in terms of sheer quantity, was ammunition for AK-47s. Packouz had received excellent quotes from suppliers in Hungary and the Czech Republic. But Diveroli insisted on using the Swiss arms dealer Heinrich Thomet’s high-level contacts in Albania. The move made sense. The Albanians didn’t require a large deposit as a down payment, which made it easier for AEY to place big orders. And Albania’s government could certainly handle the volume: Its paranoid communist leaders had been so convinced they were going to be attacked by foreign powers that they had effectively transformed the nation into a vast military stockpile, with bunkers scattered throughout the countryside. In fact, AK-47 ammunition was so plentiful that Albania’s president had recently flown to Baghdad and offered to donate millions of rounds to Gen. David Petraeus.

The structure for AEY’s purchase of the Albanian ammo was standard in the world of illegal arms deals, where the whole point is to disguise origins and end-users. It was perfectly legal, but it had the stench of double-dealing. A shell company called Evdin, which Thomet had incorporated in Cyprus, would buy the ammo from Albania’s arms-exporting company. Evdin would then resell the rounds to AEY. That way Thomet got a cut as broker, and AEY and the U.S. government were insulated from any legal or moral quandaries that came with doing business in a country as notoriously corrupt and unpredictable as Albania.

There was only one snag: When Diveroli bid on the contract, he had miscalculated the cost of shipping, failing to anticipate the rising cost of fuel. The Army had given him permission to repackage the rounds into cardboard boxes, but getting anything done in a country as dysfunctional as Albania wasn’t easy. So Diveroli dispatched another friend from their synagogue, Alex Podrizki, to the capital city of Tirana to oversee the details of fulfilling the deal.

Despite the hands-on approach, signs of trouble emerged immediately. When Podrizki went to look at a cache of ammunition in one bunker, it was apparent that the Albanians had a haphazard attitude about safety; they used an ax to open crates containing live rounds and lit cigarettes in a room filled with gunpowder. The ammunition itself, though decades old, seemed to be in working order, but the rounds were stored in rusty cans and stacked on rotting wooden pallets — not the protocol normally used for such dangerous materiel. Worst of all, Podrizki noticed that the steel containers holding the ammunition — known as “sardine cans” — were covered in Chinese markings. Podrizki called Packouz in Miami.

“I inspected the stuff and it seems good,” Podrizki told him. “But dude, you know this is Chinese ammo, right?”

“What are you talking about?” Packouz said.

“The ammo is Chinese.”

“How do you know it’s Chinese?”

“There are Chinese markings all over the crates.”

Packouz’s heart sank. There was not only an embargo against selling weapons manufactured in China: The Afghan contract specifically stipulated that Chinese ammo was not permitted. Then again, maybe AEY could argue that the ammunition didn’t violate the ban, since it had been imported to Albania decades before the embargo was imposed, back when Albania’s communist government had forged an alliance with Mao. There was precedent for such an argument: Only the year before, the Army had been delighted with Chinese ammo that AEY had shipped from Albania. But this time, when Diveroli wrote the State Department’s legal advisory desk to ask if he could use Chinese rounds made prior to the embargo, he received a curt and unequivocal reply: not without a presidential decree.

Given the deadline on the contract, there was no time to find another supplier. The Hungarians could fill half the deal, but the ammunition would not be ready for shipment until the fall; the Czechs could fill the entire order, but they wanted $1 million. Any delay would risk losing the entire contract. “The Army was pushing us for the ammo,” says Packouz. “They needed it ASAP.”

So the two friends chose a third option. As arms dealers, subverting the law wasn’t some sort of extreme scenario — it was a routine part of the business. There was even a term of art for it: circumvention. Packouz e-mailed Podrizki in Albania and instructed him to have the rounds repackaged to get rid of any Chinese markings. It was time to circumvent.

Alone in a strange city, Podrizki improvised. He picked up a phone book and found a cardboard-box manufacturer named Kosta Trebicka. The two men met at a bar near the Sky Tower in the center of town. Trebicka was in his late forties, a wiry and intense man with thick worker’s hands. He told Podrizki that he could supply cardboard boxes strong enough to hold the ammunition, as well as the labor to transfer the rounds to new pallets. A week later, Podrizki called to ask if Trebicka could hire enough men to repack 100 million rounds of ammunition by taking them out of metal sardine cans and placing them in cardboard boxes. Trebicka thought the request exceedingly odd. Why go to all that trouble? Podrizki fibbed, saying it was to lighten the load and save money on air freight. After extended haggling with Diveroli back in Miami, Trebicka agreed to do the job for $280,000 and hired a team of men to begin repackaging the rounds.

As he worked at the warehouse, however, Trebicka grew even more suspicious. Concerned that something nefarious was happening, he called the U.S. Embassy and met with the economic attache. Over coffee at a cafe called Chocolate, Trebicka confided that the ammunition was covered in Chinese markings. Was that a problem? Not at all, the U.S. official replied. The embassy had been trying to find the money to pay for demolishing the ammunition, so sending the rounds to Afghanistan would actually do them a favor. AEY appeared to be in the clear.

But greed got the better of Diveroli. In a phone call from Miami, he asked Trebicka to use his contacts in the Albanian government to find out how much Thomet was paying the Albanians for the ammunition. AEY was giving the Swiss arms broker just over four cents per round and reselling them to the Pentagon for 10 cents. But Diveroli suspected that Thomet was ripping him off.

He turned out to be right. A few days later, Trebicka reported that Thomet was paying the Albanians only two cents per round — meaning that he was charging AEY double the asking price, just for serving as a broker. Diveroli was enraged. He asked Trebicka to meet with his Albanian connections and find a way to cut Thomet out of the deal entirely.

Trebicka was happy to help. The Albanians, he thought, would be glad to deal with AEY directly. After all, by doing an end run around Thomet, there would be more money for everyone else. But when Trebicka met with the Albanian defense minister, his intervention had the opposite effect: The Albanians cut him out of the deal, informing AEY that the repackaging job would be completed instead by a friend of the prime minister’s son. What Trebicka had failed to grasp was that Thomet was paying a kickback to the Albanians from the large margin he was making on the deal. Getting rid of Thomet was impossible, because that was how the Albanians were being paid off the books.

Diveroli flew to Albania and tried to intervene to help Trebicka keep the job, but he didn’t have enough clout to get the decision reversed. Trebicka was stuck with the tab for the workers he had hired to repackage the rounds, along with a warehouse full of useless cardboard boxes he had printed to hold the ammo. Furious at being frozen out, he called Diveroli and secretly recorded the conversation, threatening to tell the CIA what he knew about the deal. “If the Albanians want to still work with me, I will not open my mouth,” he promised. “I will do whatever you tell me to do.”

Diveroli suggested that Trebicka try bribing Ylli Pinari, the head of the Albanian arms-exporting agency that was supplying the ammunition. “Why don’t you kiss Pinari’s ass one more time,” Diveroli said. “Call him up. Beg. Kiss him. Send one of your girls to fuck him. Let’s get him happy. Maybe we can play on his fears. Or give him a little money, something in his pocket. And he’s not going to get much — $20,000 from you.”

When Trebicka complained about being muscled out of the deal, Diveroli said there was nothing he could do about it. There were too many thugs involved on the Albanian end of the deal, and it was just too dangerous. “It went up higher, to the prime minister and his son,” Diveroli said. “This mafia is too strong for me. I can’t fight this mafia. It got too big. The animals just got too out of control.”

With things up in the air in Albania, Packouz was starting to feel the pressure. He was stressed out, working around the clock, negotiating multimillion-dollar purchases and arranging for transportation. It felt like AEY was under siege from all directions. So when the cargo plane had finally taken off from Hungary on its way to Kabul loaded with 5 million rounds of ammunition, Packouz had breathed a sigh of relief. Then the plane had been abruptly seized in Kyrgyzstan — and Packouz had been forced to swing into action once more, working the phones for weeks to get the ammo released. Fortunately, AEY had friends in high places. When Packouz contacted the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan, the military attache immediately wrote to the Kyrgyz government, explaining that the cargo was “urgently needed for the war on terrorism being fought by your neighboring Afghan forces.” Two weeks later, Defense Secretary Robert Gates traveled to Kyrgyzstan on a mission to keep supplies flowing through the airport there. Under pressure from top U.S. officials, the ammo was eventually released.

“I never did find out what really happened, or why the plane was seized,” says Packouz. “It was how things were done in international arms dealing. The defense industry and politics were extremely intertwined — you couldn’t do business in one without dealing with the other. Your fate depended on political machinations behind the scenes. You don’t even know whose side you were on — who you were helping and who you were hurting.”

With the plane released and the Albanian supply line secured, Packouz and Diveroli thought they finally had everything under control. Cargo planes filled with ammunition were taking off from airports across Eastern Europe. The military officials receiving the ammo in Kabul had to know it was Chinese: Every round is stamped with the place of manufacture, as any soldier knows. But the shipments were routinely approved, and there were no complaints from the Afghans about the quality of the rounds. The ammo worked, and that was all that mattered. Millions of dollars were being transferred via wire from the Pentagon into AEY’s accounts, and the $300 million contract was moving along smoothly. Diveroli was rich. Packouz was going to be rich. They had it made.

But it didn’t take long for success to drive a wedge between the two friends. The exhausted Packouz no longer had to work 18 hours a day to track down suppliers. He started coming in late and knocking off early. Diveroli, who owed him commission but had yet to cut a check to his partner, started to argue with him about his hours.

“Efraim started looking at me differently,” Packouz says. “I could tell he was working things over in his head. There was real money in the bank — millions and millions. He was about to be forced to pay me a huge chunk of change. He said he didn’t want to ‘give’ me all that money. That was how he put it. Not like I had earned the money.”

One day, Diveroli finally made his move. He wanted to renegotiate the deal. Packouz knew he was in a bad bargaining position. The money coming in from the Army went directly to AEY. Packouz had no written contract with Diveroli, only an oral agreement. The handshake deal they had made was worth just that — a handshake.

In an effort to protect his interests, Packouz demanded a meeting with lawyers present. Before the session, the two friends had a quick exchange.

“Listen, dude, if you fuck me, I’m going to fuck you,” Packouz warned.

“Whatever,” said Diveroli.

“It’s going to be war,” Packouz said. Then he played his trump card. “You don’t want the IRS starting to come and look around.”

Diveroli’s face went white.

“Calm down,” Diveroli said. “Don’t throw around three-letter words like IRS. We can find a settlement.”

“I know all of your contacts, and I can send them the actual documents showing what the government is paying,” Packouz said. “You’ll lose your entire profit margin.”

“Take it easy,” said Diveroli.

“We both know you’re delivering Chinese,” Packouz said.

A deal was struck, with Packouz agreeing to a fraction of the commission he had been promised. He figured he had something more precious than money: He knew how to work FedBizOpps. To compete with his former partner, he opened up his own one-man shop, Dynacore Industries, claiming on his website that his “staff” had done business with the State Department, the Pentagon, and the Iraqi and Afghan armies. “Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it,” Packouz says. “People won’t do business with you unless you have experience, but how can you get experience if they won’t do business with you? Everyone has got to lie sometimes.” Fearing that Diveroli might decide it was cheaper to have him killed than to pay him, Packouz also bought a .357 revolver as insurance.

It turned out that Packouz had bigger things to worry about. Winning the Afghan contract had earned AEY powerful enemies in the industry. One American arms dealer had complained to the State Department, claiming that AEY was buying Chinese-made AK-47s and shipping them to the Iraqi army. The allegation was false, but it had apparently triggered a criminal investigation by the Pentagon. On August 23rd, 2007 — the very day Packouz was supposed to sign the settlement papers with Diveroli — federal agents raided AEY’s offices in Miami Beach. Ordering everyone to step away from their computers, the agents seized all of the company’s hard drives and files.

The raid led agents directly to the e-mails about the Chinese markings on the ammunition from Albania, and the conspiracy to repackage it. “The e-mails were incredibly incriminating — they spelled out everything,” Packouz says. “I knew once they saw them we were in trouble. We were so stupid. If we didn’t e-mail, we could probably have denied the whole thing. But there were the names and dates. It was undeniable. I realized I was going to get caught no matter what I did, so I turned myself in. When the agents came to my lawyer’s office to interview me, they were joking about how they had seen all the e-mails and notes. They were laughing.”

To avoid indictment, Packouz agreed to cooperate, as did Alex Podrizki. But Diveroli went right on shipping Chinese ammo to Afghanistan — and the Army went right on accepting it. By now, though, the repackaging being done in Albania was getting even sloppier. Some of the crates were infested with termites, and the ammunition had been damaged by water. Tipped off by an attorney for Kosta Trebicka, who had begun a crusade against corruption in Albania, The New York Times ran a front-page story in March 2008 entitled “Supplier Under Scrutiny on Arms for Afghans.”

Before the Times story ran, Packouz had been led to believe that he wasn’t going to be charged for shipping pre-embargo Chinese ammunition. But after the article appeared, he and Podrizki and Diveroli were indicted on 71 counts of fraud. Faced with overwhelming evidence, all pleaded guilty. The Mormon gun manufacturer from Utah, Ralph Merrill, pleaded not guilty and was convicted in December. Heinrich Thomet simply vanished; according to rumors, he was last seen somewhere in Bosnia.

After the story broke, Kosta Trebicka traveled to the United States to talk to congressional investigators and federal prosecutors in Miami. He soon became terrified that the U.S. government was going to indict him as well. But back in Albania, he also became the lead witness in a case that targeted Albanian thugs and gangsters with ties to the prime minister. Then one afternoon in September 2008, Trebicka was killed in a mysterious “accident” when his truck somehow managed to flip over on a flat stretch of land outside Tirana. He was found alive by villagers, but medical crews and the police were slow to arrive. One of the first officials on the scene, in fact, was the Albanian prime minister’s former bodyguard. “If it was an accident,” says Erion Veliaj, an Albanian activist who worked with Trebicka, “it was a very strange kind.”

Through all the chaos, Diveroli and Packouz had done a huge amount of business with the U.S. military. All told, AEY made 85 deliveries of munitions to Afghanistan worth more than $66 million, and had already received orders for another $100 million in ammunition. But the fiasco involved more than a couple of stoner kids who made a fortune in the arms trade. “The AEY contract can be viewed as a case study in what is wrong with the procurement process,” an investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform later concluded. There was a “questionable need for the contract,” a “grossly inadequate assessment of AEY’s qualifications” and “poor execution and oversight” of the contract. The Bush administration’s push to outsource its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in short, had sent companies like AEY into the world of illegal arms dealers — but when things turned nasty, the federal government reacted with righteous indignation.

In January, Packouz was sentenced to seven months of house arrest after he stood before a federal judge in Miami and expressed his remorse for the “embarrassment, stress and heartache that I have caused.” But his real regret is political: He believes that he and Diveroli were scapegoats, prosecuted not for breaking the law but for embarrassing the Bush administration. No one from the government has been charged in the case, even though officials in both the Pentagon and the State Department clearly knew that AEY was shipping Chinese-made ammunition to Afghanistan.

“We were the Army’s favorite contractors when we got the deal — poster boys for President Bush’s small-business initiative,” Packouz says. “We would have saved the government at least $50 million. We were living the American dream, until it turned into a nightmare.”

In January, dressed in a tan prison-issued jumper, Diveroli came before Judge Joan Lenard for sentencing at Miami’s gleaming new federal courthouse. The court was packed with his friends and relatives, but they didn’t exactly give him the support he was hoping for. “Efraim needs to go to jail,” a local rabbi told the judge. Even Diveroli’s mother concurred. “I know you hate me for saying this,” she said, addressing her son directly, “but you need to go to jail.” Diveroli’s shoulders slumped.

Diveroli described his contrition to Judge Lenard. When prison guards saw his file, he said, they asked in amazement how such a young person had managed to win such a huge military contract. “I have no answer,” Diveroli told the court. “I have had many experiences in my short life. I have done more than most people can dream of. But I would have done it differently. All the notoriety in my industry and all the good times — and there were some — cannot make up for the damage.”

Judge Lenard gazed at Diveroli for a long time. “If it wasn’t so amazing, you would laugh,” she said. Then she sentenced him to four years.

The hearing was not the end of Diveroli’s woes. As a convicted felon, he was barred from so much as holding a gun, let alone selling arms. But while he was awaiting sentencing on the fraud charges, Diveroli couldn’t stay out of the business he loved. He contrived to act as a consultant to a licensed importer who wanted to buy Korean-made ammunition magazines. The deal was technically legal — the magazines only fed ammo into the guns, so Diveroli wasn’t actually selling weapons — but it put him in the cross hairs of another federal sting operation.

An ATF agent posing as an arms dealer spent weeks trying to wheedle Diveroli into selling arms. Diveroli refused, but he couldn’t resist bragging about his exploits; as agents recorded his every word, he talked about hunting alligators and hogs in the Everglades with a .50-caliber rifle. Finally, the ATF agent lured Diveroli to a meeting, asking him to bring along a gun so they could go shooting together. Diveroli didn’t bring a weapon — he knew that would constitute a felony. But the ATF agent, who had thoughtfully brought along a gun of his own, handed Diveroli a Glock to try out.

The temptation was too much. Adopting his best tough-guy swagger, Diveroli cleared the chamber and inspected the weapon. As always, the 24-year-old arms dealer was the star of his own Hollywood movie. No matter what happened, he told the agent moments before his arrest, he would never leave the arms business.

“Once a gun runner,” he boasted,” always a gun runner.”

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-stoner-arms-dealers-20110316?print=true

Afghanistan ‘sliding towards collapse’

Afghan forces are far from ready to secure a country riddled with violence and corruption, Red Cross and thinktank warn

Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul guardian.co.uk,    Monday 8 October 2012 13.39 EDT

Afghanistan security forces at the scene of a suicide attack

Afghan security forces at the site of a suicide attack in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The police and army in an increasingly violent Afghanistan will struggle to secure the country when foreign forces leave and the people face a corrupt presidential election in 2014, the Red Cross and a thinktank have warned.

At stake is the limited and fragile stability that has insulated Kabul and most other urban areas from more than a decade of escalating aggression since the US invasion. There are growing fears the country could face a full-blown civil war after Nato troops hand over security to the Afghan police and army, and leave.

“Time is running out,” said Candace Rondeaux of the International Crisis Group thinktank, in a blunt report about the handover from coalition to Afghan troops. “Steps toward a stable transition must begin now to prevent a precipitous slide toward state collapse.

“Plagued by factionalism and corruption, Afghanistan is far from ready to assume responsibility for security when US and Nato forces withdraw in 2014.”

The Long Hard Road to the 2014 Transition also argues that time is running out to ensure a 2014 presidential vote is credible or acceptable.  President Hamid Karzai is due to step down in that year and powerbrokers are already jostling for position.

“It is a near certainty that under current conditions the 2014 elections will be plagued by massive fraud,” the report stated. “Vote-rigging in the south and east, where security continues to deteriorate, is all but guaranteed. High levels of violence across the country before and on the day of the polls are likely to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands more would-be voters.”

The last decade has brought improvements for Afghans in areas including women’s rights, health and education. But for many civilians, particularly in rural areas, the steady rise of the Taliban and insurgents linked with them has also brought insecurity and misery.

“I am filled with concern as I leave this country,” the outgoing head of the Afghanistan office of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Reto Stocker, told journalists in Kabul. “Since I arrived here, in 2005, local armed groups have proliferated, civilians have been caught between not just one but multiple frontlines, and it has become increasingly difficult for ordinary Afghans to obtain healthcare.”

The conflict was now less brutal for civilians, however, than was the fighting that tore Afghanistan apart in the 1990s, when noncombatants were often directly targeted as a deliberate means of warfare, he said.

But many were still killed and injured, others had fled their homes to escape violence, and many Afghans who had escaped being drawn into the conflict still lived in abject poverty, extremely vulnerable to drought, flooding, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

The fragile economy was also likely to suffer, as the departure of foreign troops would hit a country dependent on war spending, from construction to fuel transportation, Stocker added.

“Hardship arising from the economic situation or from severe weather or natural disaster has become more widespread, and hope for the future has been steadily declining,” he said.

Afghanistan’s insecurity also appears to be fuelling its drug control problems. The country is already the world’s largest producer of opium, with the UN saying on Monday the number of Afghan families growing cannabis as a cash crop leaped by more than  a third last year.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/08/afghanistan-collapse-red-cross

Obama administration officials say there’s no point crafting detailed sequestration plans

Prepare for the Worst

Oct. 7, 2012 – 04:14PM   |
By THE DEFENSE NEWS STAFF

Obama administration officials say there’s no point crafting detailed sequestration plans, given it’s a crisis created by Congress that might never happen.

But Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale last week finally hinted at some implications, saying civilian workers might be furloughed to cover Afghanistan operations. He also said the Defense Department would look to protect its top programs and avoid costly terminations.

Even though DoD is not yet making detailed plans, Hale stressed the Pentagon will be ready if sequestration goes into effect. Ready or not, a 10 percent chop off DoD’s annual budget — a sequestration requirement — is a big hit, all the more following cuts over the past two years.

Unfortunately, wisdom will not prevail in a timely fashion: This is an election year. Republicans want details to criticize Obama for cutting defense; the president won’t play along, blaming Congress for creating this mess in the first place. That leaves a looming threat to the defense section frozen by uncertainty and workers fearing for their jobs.

No matter how you slice it, sequestration will only make a bad situation worse, and Congress has a responsibility to avoid it. Yet it has demonstrated a tendency toward nonpartisan irresponsibility. DoD leaders absolutely must do more to prepare for a worst-case scenario.

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20121007/DEFFEAT05/310070008/Prepare-Worst?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

U.S. Army General who ‘had forced sex and inappropriate relationships with female soldiers’ in Afghanistan flown home in disgrace

  • Jeffrey Sinclair returned to Fort Bragg  after being posted with Airborne Division in 2010
  • Sinclair has been in the Army for 27 years  and served in first Gulf War
  • Charges include possessing pornography and  alcohol while deployed

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:14:12 EST, 26  September 2012| UPDATED:17:56 EST, 26 September 2012

An Army brigadier general has been charged  with forcible sodomy, multiple counts of adultery and having inappropriate  relationships with several female subordinates, two U.S. defense officials said  today.

Jeffrey A Sinclair,   who served as deputy commander in  charge of logistics and support for the 82nd  Airborne Division in  Afghanistan, was sent home in May because of the  allegations.

Sinclair faces possible courts martial on  charges that include forced sex, wrongful sexual conduct, violating an order,  possessing pornography and alcohol while deployed, and misusing a government  travel charge card and filing fraudulent claims.

 

Shroud of secrecy: Brigadier General Jeffrey A Sinclair has been charged with forcible sodomy of female subordinates and was sent home from Afghanistan to Fort Bragg, North Carolina in May 

Shroud of secrecy: Brigadier General Jeffrey A Sinclair  has been charged with forcible sodomy of female subordinates and was sent home  from Afghanistan to Fort Bragg, North Carolina in May

Sinclair was informed of the charges on  Monday, and the next step will be an Article 32 investigation – an impartial  investigation before he maybe referred to a general court martial.

The charges were announced at a brief press  conference on Wednesday at Fort Bragg, the sprawling U.S. Army base in North  Carolina that is home to the 82nd Airborne.

After reading a prepared statement, base  spokesman Col. Kevin Arata refused to take any questions.

Reporters were told all questions would have  to be made in writing and that no response was likely to come until the  following day.

No date has been set for the public hearing.  It was not clear if Sinclair had an attorney.

The charges are under the military legal  system called the Uniform Code of Military Justices.

The term ‘forcible sodomy’ is defined as  contact between a sex organ and any part of another person’s body.

‘It’s a fall back charge,’ a military lawyer  who asked to remain anonymous and is unfamiliar with the particulars of  Sinclair’s case told Fox  News.

He added that when rape would be difficult to  prove lawyers often opt for the ‘forcible sodomy’ charge.

Sinclair had arrived in Afghanistan for his  deployment in September 2011, but had been serving in the division since July  2010.

Sinclair, a trained paratrooper who has been  in the Army for 27 years, was serving his third deployment to Afghanistan.

He had also served two tours in Iraq, as well  as a tour in the first Gulf war. He has been decorated in battle including with  the Bronze Star Medal.

Sinclair was recruited through the Reserve  Officers’ Training Corps in 1985 from the University of West Virginia.

He has a bachelor’s degree in political  science from the school along with a master’s from Central Michigan University  and a master’s in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War  College.

Deployment: Members of the military at NATO's Regional Command in Kandahar, Afghanistan where Sinclair had been posted since 2010 

Deployment: Members of the military at NATO’s Regional  Command in Kandahar, Afghanistan where Sinclair had been posted since 2010

The 82nd Airborne Division headquarters are  in charge of NATO’s Regional Command South in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

Details have only begun to emerge about the  scandal with little information  available about the time frame of the charges  against Sinclair.

Fort Bragg spokesman Ben Abel confirmed it  was a ‘criminal investigation’, according  to The Fayetteville  Observer.

Sinclair was reassigned to the U.S army base  in May as special assistant to the commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps  and Fort Bragg.

It is highly unusual for a senior member of  the armed forces to be removed from their position,  investigated and face  a court martial. There have been only two cases in recent years.

Earlier this year, Army Brig. Gen. Roger Duff  pleaded guilty to charges of conduct unbecoming an officer, wearing unauthorized  awards or ribbons and making a false official statement.

He was sentenced to two months confinement  and dismissal from the military. Under a pre-trial agreement, only the dismissal  may be imposed. The case is still pending, said Army spokesman George  Wright.

Prior to that, Maj. Gen. David Hale pleaded  guilty to seven counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and one count of making  a false statement, also in connection with adultery.

He was fined $10,000 and was ordered to  retire at the reduced rank of brigadier general, Wright said

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2209023/Jeffrey-A-Sinclair-US-Army-General-charged-rape-sent-home-Afghanistan.html#ixzz27dUuFy7W Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Revolutionary life saving Palantir software denied to the 3rd Infantry Division because of Red tape. Even though the company offered its technology on a cost-free basis

Army Investigating 3rd Infantry Division’s Acquisition of Controversial Intel Software

Sep. 20, 2012 – 06:16AM   | By PAUL MCLEARY

An Aug. 16 email from the Army’s acting assistant secretary for acquisition, Heidi Shyu, demanded “immediate corrective action” after she discovered that the 3rd Infantry Division had attempted to obtain controversial intelligence software for stateside training prior to its deployment to Afghanistan.

Shyu’s email, obtained by Defense News, comes after her staff discovered two memos written by the 3rd ID in May calling for the delivery of the Palantir intelligence software while admitting that the unit didn’t have the money to pay for it. The revolutionary software is designed to coordinate vast amounts of information stored in various government databases to help deployed units track and pinpoint insurgent leaders, IED strikes, and IED-planting networks.

The issue that alarmed Shyu was that the unit said it couldn’t pay for the system, and the company offered its technology on a cost-free basis, as opposed to normal contracting methods. Shyu wrote that “these circumstances warrant immediate corrective action by the Army to ensure that we comply with fundamental rules relating to how the government obtains goods and services from industry.”

The memos, addressed to the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office and the Technical Support Working Group; and to intelligence contractor Praescient Analytics and Palantir, asked for a “temporary training/reach-back server” from Palantir before the 3rd ID’s deployment to Afghanistan to assume command of Regional Command-South. The unit deployed in August.

The 3rd ID’s memo said that the unit’s budget “will not support the purchase of Palantir. Operational Needs Statement (ONS) was considered, but standard length of timeline for ONS cannot be tolerated. This requirement needs to be filled immediately.” The memos obtained by Defense News show that the 3rd ID considered the 82nd Airborne’s use of Palantir in Afghanistan in 2012 critical in helping to fill “major capability gaps” in the division’s existing intelligence software, and that Palantir is “the only platform capable of filling their advanced analytic requirements.” Because the unit planned on using the software on its upcoming deployment, the memo states that “3rd ID needs a rapid fielding of this system to quickly fill critical capability/training gap prior to our pending deployment.”

Asked about the issue, an Army spokesman emailed that the 3rd ID “is working to execute proper contracts for these goods and services as required by law; Army Commands have been advised of the need to reinforce training of personnel regarding the acceptance of goods and services without a contract; and greater acquisition oversight has been implemented to ensure that requests for similar capabilities follow required procedures.”

Congressman Duncan Hunter, who has been out in front on the issue of getting combat units the Palantir software, said in an emailed statement that the 3rd ID “opened back channels to acquire Palantir and they got it in preparation for their Afghanistan deployment. Emails show Army officials learning of their acquisition for the first time on August 16 and now the Army is directing its attention to 3rd ID, rather than focusing on the real problem. It seems they are just stalling. What the Army needs to start worrying about are the urgent requests from ground combat units for alternate counter IED technology.”

This is the latest salvo in an ongoing controversy over the Palantir software that erupted in July, when Hunter’s office went public with its discovery that a highly positive April 2012 study of the Palantir software by the Army Operational Test Command was redacted on the orders of Col. Joseph Martin, the command’s director. The report said that while the Army-preferred intelligence system, the Distributed Common Ground System, “is overcomplicated,” the Army should “install more Palantir servers in Afghanistan.” Martin ordered all of the copies of the report destroyed, replaced with a new report that excluded the positive comments about Palantir.

In an Aug. 23 letter to Army Secretary John McHugh, Hunter claimed that “there have been deliberate efforts on the part of mid-level bureaucrats to deny units this resource despite repeated urgent requests from commanders.” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has already launched an investigation into why requests for the Palantir software were either denied or ignored. His investigation is supposed to conclude some time this month.

Secretary McHugh has also pledged to investigate. In a Sept. 17 letter to Hunter, he wrote that he has directed his staff to conduct a review of “unit requests for the capabilities provided by Palantir” and to examine “the process by which such requests are addressed, as well as the manner in which capabilities are acquired and fielded.” The letter was written a month after McHugh had been made aware of 3rd ID’s actions but before those actions had been made public

U.S. military suspends joint patrols with Afghans ” our allies — have turned their guns on NATO forces 36 times this year, killing 51, most of them Americans”

(CBS News) The strategy for getting U.S. forces out of Afghanistan depends on training Afghan soldiers and police to protect the country themselves, but on Monday the U.S. military suspended most joint field operations with Afghan forces because so many Americans are being killed by the men they are training.

Afghan government troops — our allies — have turned their guns on NATO forces 36 times this year, killing 51, most of them Americans. That is more attacks than the last two years combined.

The order effectively suspends “until further notice” most of the operations which U.S. and Afghan troops conduct side by side. At higher headquarters, Afghans and Americans will still work together, but in the field small unit operations putting Afghan soldiers alongside Americans — the guts of the U.S. strategy to turn the fighting over to Afghans — will be suspended unless an exception is granted by a commanding general.

The order was issued after a long weekend in which four American and two British troops were killed by so-called “insider attacks” — Afghans turning their guns on their supposed allies.

After spate of “insider attacks,” NATO lessens Afghan partnership Anti-U.S. protests linger after deadly weekend of “insider attacks” in Afghanistan 4 U.S. troops killed in Afghan “insider attack”

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey called the surge in insider attacks “a very serious threat to the campaign.”

In addition, two Marines were killed and eight fighter jets destroyed by enemy fighters who penetrated a heavily fortified base.

A Taliban video shot the morning after the attack on Camp Bastion shows smoke still rising from the most destructive enemy attack of the entire war. Just as disturbing is the fact the enemy was able to film this propaganda video, from just outside the base.

The attack began at 10 p.m. Friday night when a band of 15 enemy fighters somehow eluded detection by security cameras which scan the entire perimeter of Camp Bastion. Dressed in U.S. army uniforms, they cut their way through the outer wire and blew a hole through the base wall. Armed with automatic weapons, rocket propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests, they split into teams — each going after a separate target. One went for the harrier jet fighters, another for the fueling stations, and a third for the helicopters. Within 30 minutes, the damage was done. A quick reaction force finally arrived and after a two-hour firefight, killed 14 attackers and wounded one who is now in custody.

One U.S. official put it simply: “We have got to do a better job at protecting our troops.”

U.S. officials say that somewhere between 10 percent and 25 percent of the insider attacks are the work of enemy infiltrators. The rest are the result of personal insults and just plain cultural misunderstandings

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57514546/u.s-military-suspends-joint-patrols-with-afghans/?tag=cbsContent;cbsCarousel

Declassified documents from 1980 show how US planned to fight a nuclear war: Directive 59

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:12:45 EST, 16  September 2012| UPDATED:12:53 EST, 16 September 2012

Declassified documents have revealed for the  first time how the Carter administration planned to fight a nuclear  war.

Presidential Decision Directive 59, signed by  President Jimmy Carter on July 25, 1980, was one of the most controversial  nuclear policy documents of the Cold War and aimed to give presidents more  discretion in planning for and executing a nuclear war.

But the creators of the document thought the use of nuclear weapons to defeat  conventional troops wouldn’t necessarily result in apocalypse.

Nuclear friendship: U.S. President Jimmy Carter, left, and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev smile and shake hands while Soviet Foreign Minister Andrej Gromyko, center, applauds in 1979Nuclear friendship: U.S. President Jimmy Carter, left,  and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev smile and shake hands while Soviet Foreign  Minister Andrej Gromyko, center, applauds in 1979

Sections of the policy were leaked at the  time, and plastered across the front pages of The New York Times  and The Wall  Street Journal, but the National Security Archive made the  entire document  public for the first time this week on its website.

PD-59 reveals that the United States was  indeed preparing to fight a nuclear war, and that the Carter administration  sought nuclear capabilities that ensured a ‘high degree of flexibility, enduring  survivability, and adequate performance in the face of enemy actions.’

If deterrence failed, the US ‘must be capable  of fighting successfully so that the adversary would not achieve his war aims  and would suffer costs that are unacceptable.’

According to Foreignpolicy.com,  a major element of PD-59 was the ‘look-shoot-look’ capability. This involved using sophisticated intelligence to  find nuclear weapons targets in battlefield situations, strike the targets, and  then assess the damage.

Weapons: A U.S. Navy Tomahawk Cruise Missile gains altitude after breaking the surface of the water following its launch in 1979Testing: A U.S. Navy Tomahawk Cruise Missile gains  altitude after breaking the surface of the water following its launch in  1979

A memorandum from NSC military aide William  Odom depicted Secretary of Defense Harold Brown doing exactly that in a recent  military exercise where he was ‘chasing (enemy) general purpose forces in East  Europe and Korea with strategic weapons,’ the website reports.

In other words, he was planning how to use  large nuclear weapons to attack conventional troops.

But Odom and others behind the document did  not believe the use of nuclear weapons to defeat traditional troops would  necessarily lead to apocalypse.

PD-59, which was highly classified for years,  was signed during a period of heightened Cold War tensions due to the Soviet  invasion of Afghanistan, and greater instability in the Middle East among other  concerns.

Media coverage at the time suggested the  changes to US strategy the policy enacted lowered the threshold of a decision to  launch a nuclear attack, with some arguing that the directive would only  exacerbate Cold War tensions.

Presidential Decision Directive 59Presidential Decision Directive 59
Presidential Decision Directive 59Presidential Decision Directive 59
Presidential Decision Directive 59Presidential Decision Directive 59
Presidential Decision Directive 59Presidential Decision Directive 59

Presidential Decision Directive 59 Presidential Decision Directive 59

Presidential Decision Directive 59Presidential Decision Directive 59

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2204151/Declassified-documents-1980-US-planned-fight-nuclear-war.html#ixzz26f9nNUgj

$475 million of Fuel Gone: Investigators are probing reports of record-shredding by officials in the U.S.-led NATO command that trains the Afghan army

U.S. probes reported record-shredding of fuel buys for Afghan army

By Susan Cornwell | Reuters – 17 hrs ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Investigators are probing reports of record-shredding by officials in the U.S.-led NATO command that trains the Afghan army after learning that records of fuel purchases for the Afghans totaling nearly $475 million are gone.

              The training command has also not been tracking whether the fuel it delivers to the Afghan army is actually used or stored, leaving officials unable to determine whether any of it was stolen, said an interim report by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.

John Sopko, appointed recently by President Barack Obama to the special inspector general’s job, told Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in a letter on Monday that SIGAR was investigating the reported shredding by officials of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, or CSTC-A.

              Sopko’s office conducts criminal as well as civil investigations of waste, fraud and abuse relating to U.S.-funded reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.

              During an audit of spending on fuel for the Afghan army, the CSTC-A command “informed us that its officials shredded all ANA (Afghan National Army) POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) financial records related to payments totaling nearly $475 million from October 2006 to February 2011,” Sopko wrote in a letter obtained by Reuters.

              In addition, the training command could not provide over half the documents the inspector general’s office requested for its audit covering March 2011 to March 2012, Sopko told Panetta.

“The destruction of records and the unexplained failure to provide other records violate DOD (Department of Defense) and Department of the Army policies,” Sopko said. He said a 2010 memo from the U.S. Army Central Command specifically instructed financial managers not to destroy documents related to the war.

“This matter has been referred to SIGAR investigations, and we would appreciate the continued cooperation of CSTC-A in our official investigation of the destruction of these records,” Sopko said.

              In a written response to Sopko’s office, the training command noted steps it had taken to verify fuel purchases and deliveries, but did not comment on the reported document shredding. Sopko’s office has done an interim report and plans to issue a fuller report on the fuel spending later this year.

              The CSTC-A is a multinational command that works with the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan to train and equip the Afghan security forces. The commanding general is U.S. Lieutenant General Daniel Bolger, who was copied in on Sopko’s letter to Panetta.

              The training command pays for fuel needed to power the Afghan army’s vehicles, generators and power plants. But it is preparing to hand over responsibility for logistics, including fuel, to the Afghan army on January 1.

              Foreign forces are due to hand off security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

              The United States, with help from international donors, will continue to pay for the Afghan army’s fuel, however, and CSTC-A has proposed to increase spending on the Afghan army’s fuel to $555 million a year starting in fiscal 2014, SIGAR said in its interim report. In the current fiscal year, about $480 million was spent, the report said.

              Before handing over logistics responsibility to the Afghans and before committing to spend more money on fuel, the training command must develop better controls, the report said.

              (Editing by Peter Cooney)

http://news.yahoo.com/u-probes-reported-record-shredding-fuel-buys-afghan-041127852.html?_esi=1